POTTSVILLE — Trinity fought and clawed its way back from deficits and adversity throughout the Class 4A girls basketball playoffs, but a 15-point hole after 21 consecutive points from Scranton Prep Saturday afternoon in the state quarterfinals at historic Martz Hall gave the Shamrocks too much to overcome.
The first-half surge, four players in double figures and a shut-down defensive effort paced the Classics to a 59-26 victory and a berth in Tuesday’s semifinal round. They’re scheduled to face Lansdale Catholic, with a spot in Saturday’s title game on the line, at a site and time to be determined.
Prep (24-2), the District 2 champion, seized control with a first-quarter run that began with back-to-back baskets from Bella Dennabaum, who scored the team’s first points with four minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and ended with a pair of free throws from Trinity junior Natalie Freed with 1:57 remaining in the second quarter. The run featured contributions from four Classics scorers, defensive pressure that stymied the Shamrocks and a series of defensive rebounds. Trinity’s 26-point output – paced by nine points from freshman guard Emma Kostelac-Lauer – was its third lowest of the season.
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“We knew where they were going to be,” said Scranton Prep coach Bob Beviglia, who credited assistant Emily Sheehan with drawing up the defensive game plan. “We kind of took advantage of some of the weaknesses that they have. They didn’t shoot the ball very well, obviously, but a lot of that was because we made everything difficult for them.”
Trinity (19-11), the No. 5 seed from District 3, scored consecutive baskets just once after leading 4-0 – when Freed followed up her second-quarter free throws with a jumper late in the second quarter – and couldn’t find momentum after authoring second-half comebacks in each of the state tournament’s first two rounds.
“That has kind of been our M.O.,” said Trinity coach Kristi Britten. “We get in a hole, and then we get some momentum, and we adjust and come back. I just think they were too good. They handled it well. They didn’t give us any breathing room. They didn’t give us an opening to make that run.”
Scranton Prep senior forward Rita Collins helped provide the impediment, complementing her 11 points with 11 rebounds, many of them on the defensive end.
“They’re so big,” Beviglia said of the Shamrocks. “They have two kids who are 6 feet tall, but Rita’s so athletic that she kind of negates that height advantage.”
At the other end of the floor, sophomore guard Jenna Hillebrand helped spark the Classics after kick starting their second-round victory in overtime against Scranton Prep. Hellebrand scored seven of her 12 points during the Classic’s crucial first-half run.
“The kids believe in her,” Beviglia said. “She’s so athletic and can get to the basket. When she’s open, I feel real good about the ball going in the basket.”
Sophomore guard Maya Jenkins scored 16 points to lead the Classics. Dennebaum rounded out a quartet of players in double figures with 10 points. The Classics, with three sophomore players in the starting lineup, are back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2020 when COVID concerns canceled the remainder of the tournament.
“These girls were playing JV basketball last year,” Beviglia said. “So for them to walk onto the floor in an eastern final, I think that says a lot about how much they’ve developed.”
The loss to Scranton Prep ended the high school careers for the three Trinity seniors – Mandy Roman, Alina Torchia and Bella Brida, whom Britten credited with pushing junior forward Sammi McAuliffe into a key role in the team’s postseason run, one that began as the No. 8 seed in the District 3 tournament.
“When they saw how we had to kind of scrape and fight to get into districts, even, and then we saw some success in the consolation bracket,” Britten said. “I think they realized their potential.”
Tim Gross is the sports editor at The Sentinel and cumberlink.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at: @ByTimGross