MAYVILLE - After getting out to a hot start in the Section 6 Class D girls basketball semifinals on Tuesday night, the No. 1 Pine Valley Lady Panthers (17-2) nearly relinquished their early lead after losing star Kayla Mansfield in the second quarter. However, they were able to hold on against No. 4 Sherman (13-7) for a tight 41-34 victory.
Shenley Luden led a valiant comeback for the Lady Wildcats with a pair of treys midway through the third quarter to give Sherman a lead at 25-20, but the team was unable to make an offensive push in the final minutes after falling behind.
Katie Hoth and Kaleigh Brunswick responded to Luden's offense with 3s of their own, giving the Lady Panthers a one-point lead headed into the final stanza and were able to maintain it throughout the final eight minutes.
Photo by Jay Young
Pine Valley’s Kaleigh Brunswick fires a pass over Sherman’s Shenley Luden during Tuesday night's Section 6 Class D semifinals game.
"Kayla turned her ankle in what was it the second quarter?'' Pine Valley coach Tim Nobles said. ''She's our leading scorer and our leading rebounder and we just lost our composure. They hurried our offense and we missed a ton of layups, and a ton of foul shots.''
With Mansfield playing at full clip, the Lady Panthers had no trouble in the first quarter, picking up early points on deep buckets from Alex Bentham as well as free throws.
Sherman had trouble moving the ball in the early going as Pine Valley's defensive pressure caused plenty of turnovers and forced shots in the opening quarter.
The Lady Wildcats' only offense of the period came from a deep two by Bridget Yaw and a pair of free throws by Talia Coccarelli.
Despite facing heavy pressure in the backcourt throughout the night, Yaw's command of the Sherman offense was confident through all four quarters.
She finished with a team-high 10 points while Roxanne Toy chipped in 13 rebounds to keep Sherman in the game on the glass.
"I thought that our kids gave 110 percent, we played hard the whole time and had a few too many turnovers obviously, that was a problem,'' Sherman coach Mel Swanson said. ''Their pressure was good (Tuesday), but I'm pleased with my team. My seniors played their hearts out,"
Yaw was able to do most of her work at the charity stripe after being fouled on attempts to break through the Pine Valley press, finishing a perfect 6-for-6.
Those easy buckets at the line helped bring the Lady Wildcats to within six points at halftime, 18-12, and that momentum carried over into the start of the third.
Sherman was able to go on an 8-0 run to begin the period and picked up its first lead of the night with hot shooting by Coccarelli and Luden while Pine Valley went cold without the help of Mansfield.
After injuring her ankle, the senior was able to return to the game late in the fourth quarter and give her team some much-needed stability in the offensive end.
The Lady Panthers regained their lead on a nifty steal and drive by Bentham at the end of the third and were able to ride their defense to victory.
Bentham picked up another steal in the backcourt with 90 seconds to play, at which point Sherman had to resort to deliberate fouls and 3-point attempts, but it was to no avail.
The Lady Wildcats went cold when it counted and did not have enough time to make up the margin.
"Sometimes you play that hard and don't win," Swanson said. "In the second half, we made shots when we got good looks, we had some good opportunities but didn't score. We would have loved to have gotten back to the finals after winning last year, but we graduated some real key players."
Coccarelli ended the night with nine points while Luden totaled eight.
Despite her injury, Mansfield was able to finish with a respectable 10-point, 10-rebound double-double and Bentham notched seven boards, six steals and nine points.
Pine Valley will meet Panama for the Class D title on Saturday at Jamestown High School, at 1 p.m.