Colts hold off Cocalico

By on February 18, 2015
Cocalico’s Emily Fassnacht (11) drives to the hoop Friday vs. Cedar Cliff. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Cocalico’s Emily Fassnacht (11) drives to the hoop Friday vs. Cedar Cliff. (Photo by Stan Hall)

 

Trailing by one point in the dwindling seconds, the Cocalico girls basketball team had multiple options against Cedar Cliff on their final play.

Sophomore guard Emily Fassnacht was the first option and she got a good look on the base line.

Unfortunately for the 16th-seeded Lady Eagles, the ball didn’t drop and 17th-seeded Cedar Cliff escaped with a 33-31 win in a District Three Quad-A girls preliminary-round playoff game in Denver last Friday.

“(Emily) was probably not going to get all the way to the hoop because they were in a zone, but I said, ‘You’re going to get by the first person and probably get a pull-up,’” Cocalico coach Tony DiMatteo said. “We got it to her and we got a good look. We shot with enough time for an offensive rebound. I said to her, ‘Make sure there’s about three seconds so we can shoot and get a rebound.’ It just flared away.”

While Cedar Cliff (14-9) advanced to play top-seeded Palmyra (21-3) in Tuesday’s first-round, the Section Three runner-up Lady Eagles ended their season with a 17-8 overall record.

It was Cocalico’s third playoff game in just four days, having suffered a 47-33 loss to Cedar Crest in the L-L League semi-finals just 24 hours earlier.

“It’s tough,” DiMatteo acknowledged. “It’s a lot of basketball, but I thought we’d be playing Tuesday, I really did. But (Cedar Cliff) came in and did a nice job. Nice team.”

The Lady Colts had a 9-3 advantage on the glass in the first quarter &tstr; and a 23-17 edge for the game &tstr; and 5-foot-10 Maddie Sitler’s putback gave her team a 7-6 lead going to the second. Junior guard Olivia Dalby paced Cedar Cliff with a game-high 12 points.

“That was huge,” Cedar Cliff coach Scott Weyant said of the rebounds. “We stressed that all week that they’re a big team at every position, they box out extremely well, they’re very well-coached, so we had to try to get as many rebounds as we could, especially on the defensive end. We couldn’t give them seconds shots with their height.”

Cocalico missed its first four shots from the field and went just 2-of-7 in the opening quarter against Cedar Cliff’s zone defense. But they started to find their range in the second. Jasa Lorah knocked down a ‘J’ and then Natalie Sukanick nailed a three-pointer, putting the Lady Eagles up 14-11 with 2:55 left in the half.

There were three lead changes in the period and after Dalby hit a short jumper, junior center Megan Gingrich made one of two free throws for the Lady Eagles, who took a slim 15-14 lead into the break.

But seven third-quarter turnovers were costly for Cocalico, and Dalby’s steal and fastbreak layup, followed by one of two free throws, put the Lady Colts in front 18-15.

“Their guards handled our pressure, we didn’t get the turnovers we thought we were going to get,” DiMatteo said. “I thought we’d have a little more transition. Their game plan was good. They slowed us down, made us work the ball and they took care of the ball.”

Behind Emily White, who had a team-high eight points, the Lady Eagles rallied. Cocalico’s junior guard/forward scored inside, and then after Fassnacht buried a “three,” White dropped in a layup and then hit a foul line jumper, capping a 9-2 run to put the Lady Eagles up 24-20 going to the fourth.

“We talked at halftime and just said, ‘It’s mental. You’ve got to fight through that wall. I know you’re tired, but everybody’s tired at this point,’” DiMatteo recalled. “We started to, we had a nice spurt there, we and we just couldn’t sustain it.”

Indeed, after Sukanick hit a “three” with 7:12 left in the final stanza, the Lady Colts answered on a 9-1 spurt to grab a lead they never relinquished.

“I think they had a little more energy than we did tonight,” DiMatteo said. “We played really intense the last three games, including last night. We didn’t have the intensity for the whole game tonight.”

A trey by Becca Reilly put the Lady Colts up 28-27 and then Dalby went 4-of-4 at the foul line over the next minute to give Cedar Cliff a 32-28 lead with 29 seconds remaining.

“It was huge,” Weyant said of Reilly’s three-pointer. “She’s been able to hit big shots for us all season. We needed it. It was a matter of time. She was close all game. It was just getting her a good look and I thought she was going to knock it down.”

Sophomore Madison Bock answered with a big three-pointer of her own with 16 seconds to go which cut the Lady Eagles’ deficit to 32-31.

“I was using her tonight because we were getting a little stagnant against the zone,” DiMatteo said. “We weren’t moving enough and I needed a perimeter player. And Madi plays one speed. She just comes out and if she’s open, she’s going to shoot.”

When Dalby missed two free throws with 13.6 seconds left, Cedar Cliff left the door ajar. Sukanick grabbed the rebound and the Lady Eagles called a timeout to draw up the final play.

“We were expecting obviously either White or Fassnacht to get the shot,” Weyant recalled. “We tried to put some pressure on, just get a hand in the face, not to foul and just secure the rebound. It was nerve-wracking.”

Cedar Cliff’s 5-foot-9 Lexa Dugan did, in fact, grab the rebound &tstr; one of her six boards &tstr; and then hit the second of two free throws to seal it.

“I told them after the game, ‘You just did one of the hardest things to do &tstr; drive an hour on the bus, play somebody on their home floor, be down close at the end of the game and be able to pull it out,’” Weyant said.

In last Thursday’s L-L semifinals loss to Cedar Crest at Warwick, Cocalico hung with the eventual champion Falcons throughout. However, in the third, leading 22-17, Crest finally took control.

A pair of three pointers (one each from Nichole Wagner and Emily Wagner) opened up a quick 11-point advantage for Crest early in the third. The Lady Eagles never got closer than 10 points down the stretch before sophomore 6-1 center Alyssa Austin put it away with a conventional three-point play and another deuce with 2:29 to go.

“We had a couple mental breakdowns on defensive assignments,” DiMatteo said when asked about what fueled Cedar Crest’s second-half run. “We rotated two people to the ball and left them open. They are not the kind of team you want to do that against. They missed some shots in the first half, but they are good shooters.”

“Besides that I was real pleased with our effort,” he continued. “The intensity was there…that’s a good team. They took advantage of their height. We did everything that we tried to do. We tried to get them in foul trouble, and we did that. I was just pleased with the effort, and we lost to a team that played better than we did tonight.”

Cedar Crest, which went on to defeat McCaskey, 58-49 to win the L-L title Saturday, got 14 points from Nichole Wagner to lead the way, while Austin contributed 13.

Cocalico’s White led all scorers with 18 points.

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