HERSHEY — Lourdes Regional is not accustomed to being down at halftime of a low-scoring game, but in the PIAA Class 1A state championship it was hard for the Red Raiders to mount a comeback in the exact situation, in a 41-32 loss to Berlin Brothersvalley, Friday, at Giant Center.
The Red Raiders had to come from behind to knock off defending state champion Jenkintown earlier this week, but this game brought more challenges to overcome.
The Red Raiders couldn’t seem to find a bucket the entire first quarter, coming out of the gates 0-8 from the field and turning over the ball four times in the opening quarter.
Hustle plays and a strong defensive effort kept OLOL within striking distance. Frances Czeponis and Emma Shimko combined for three blocks in the first quarter, while a team effort in getting what seemed to be every loose ball limited any extra scoring opportunities for Berlin.
A bucket by Lilly Bickel on the opening position in the second quarter cut the deficit to single digits. Bickel, who finished the game with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, continued to carry the Raider’s offense, outscoring the Mountaineers 8-6 in the second.
Throughout the playoffs, Berlin relied on junior guard McKena Foor for much of their offensive output. But it was 3-point shooting from Zoie Smith and Zoe Harding that racked up points for the Mountaineers in the first half.
“We looked to penetrate in order to open up the outside,” said Mountaineers head coach Rachel Prosser. “All the girls can shoot the three, and we’ve been hitting them all playoffs.”
Lourdes opened up the second half with two 3-pointers of its own, as Bickel tossed in back-to-back shots from behind the arc. Looking to seize all the momentum, Bickel lined up for a third on the next possession. Berlin’s McKenna Foor squashed that opportunity by blocking the shot and taking the loose ball coast-to-coast for two points.
“Coming into the game we looked to control Booth, which I think we did in the first half,” said OLOL head coach Mike Klembara. “I was also concerned with their three point shooting, and they knocked down some shots.”
Berlin entered the game averaging just over 60 points a game. The Mountaineers ability to score from any place on the court speaks to the effort Lourdes gave defensively, who were still just one run away from getting back into the mix of things after being held scoreless in the first period.
As both teams continued to battle, another three in the closing seconds of the third by Harding returned the momentum for the Mountaineers as they extended their lead to 31-19 heading into the final quarter.
Coleman added a quick five points for OLOL to start the fourth, making a late rally look promising.
Smart plays by Berlin on the offensive end forced Lourdes to pick up the pace defensively, as the team started to switch defenses and apply pressure so the Mountaineers could not stall the ball.
The change of pace forced some turnovers, and the Raiders made the most of the opportunities they created. Led by Bickel and Czeponis, Lourdes went on an 8-2 run, making things 39-32 with just under two minutes left to play.
Berlin struggled to put the game out of reach by knocking down free throws, which gave Lourdes more opportunities to chip away at the lead.
A 3-pointer by Coleman went halfway down before popping out of the rim at the last second.
“That was a big one,” said coach Klembara. “Things would’ve gotten interesting.”
Berlin’s effort defensively halted the Raiders’ comeback from there, and the Mountaineers held on.