HERSHEY — A 50 percent free-throw shooter won’t crack any top 10 lists.
But in a tie game with four-tenths of a second remaining, there’s nothing wrong with 1-for-2.
Passion Bragg drilled the second of two freebies with that amount of time remaining, and Camp Hill survived a 54-53 battle with District 6 fourth-seed Blairsville in a PIAA Class 2A first-round contest Friday evening at Hershey High School.
“I’m surprised at myself,” said Bragg, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who actually entered the game shooting just 33 percent from the stripe this season.
“Foul shots aren’t, like, my biggest thing, but I guess tonight they were, and they came when we needed them.”
Said head coach Mark Clarke with a chuckle: “It was big with Passion having two shots, ‘cause if she has two, she’ll probably make one.”
Her game-winning, arching free throw came thanks to an aspect of her game that is top 10 worthy, as she grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw from older sister Diamond Bragg seconds earlier.
“She has a knack for knowing where the ball is going to land off the rim,” said Diamond, the 5-foot-9 junior point guard who scored a game-high 24 points. “So when she got that ball, I wasn’t surprised. I was so happy. It was her opportunity. She’s been waiting for this, and I think it’s a big confidence booster for her. This is huge for her.”
Camp Hill (22-5), the District 3 champ, advances to Tuesday’s second round against District 7’s Greensburg Central Catholic, which walloped McConnellsburg 43-24 in another first-round game Friday night. Site and time will be announced later.
But advancing was far from easy against an efficient Bobcats team from Indiana County.
Ralph McGinnis’ crew battled back numerous times, erasing an 11-point deficit in the second half and even briefly grabbing a pair of one-point leads, the last at 48-47 with 4:36 left in the game.
However, behind Diamond Bragg’s takeover, the Lions roared back in front. The advantage was 53-50 after her runner with 2:28 left.
It remained that way until McKenzie Misleany drained a clutch 3-pointer inside of a minute, tying it for the Bobcats (19-8).
“We’ve battled all year long,” McGinnis said. “I’m proud of what the girls do. When you fight like that, win or lose, I’m a happy coach.”
Camp Hill held for the last shot, the ball not surprisingly ending up in Diamond Bragg’s hands. She drove and drew a foul with 3 seconds left but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Passion rebounded, and the rest is history.
Blairsville did get a chance for a long in-bounds play, but the football pass was knocked away by Diamond as time expired, pushing the Lions into the second round after first-round exits in her first two seasons.
“I think it came down to our mentality, how bad we wanted it,” said Diamond, who added nine rebounds (like her sister), seven assists, a steal and two blocks.
“When you’re tired, you have to outwork them. It got difficult. They came, and I give them so much credit. They came back, got themselves back in the game, but we finished strong.”
Diamond’s counterpart, Sidney McCully, was equally impressive for the Bobcats, totaling 12 points, three rebounds, nine assists and four steals. Her defense led the final surge for Blairsville.
Rena Enterline led the ‘Cats with 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting and added a team-high seven rebounds and three steals. Catherine Martin added 10 points, and Misleany scored nine in the loss.
Passion Bragg finished with 13 points (11 in the first half) to go along with her nine boards, two assists and two steals. Anne Johnson scored five in each half for 10 points, and Katy Collingsworth grabbed six rebounds as the Lions won the battle of the boards by a 34-24 count.
“Feels stressful, but fortunate to move on,” Clarke said. “Kind of ironic that we struggled from the free-throw line the whole season — and tonight was really no different (4-for-13) — but Passion made what she needed to make at the end.”