BROOKVILLE, Pa. – Something just wasn’t quite right with Gabby Schmader’s shot for most of North Clarion’s District 9 Class 1A title game against Johnsonburg.
And then all of a sudden it was.
Relisten to the game:
With the game tied at 37 with just under 40 seconds left, Schmader found herself open in the right corner behind the 3-point arc on the lobby side of the Brookville High School Gymnasium and found nothing but net to give the She-Wolves the lead for good, and North Clarion (19-6) went on to win its third consecutive District 9 title with a 43-41 win over the top-seeded Ramettes (20-6).
“Please don’t miss,” Schmader said she was thinking when she took the shot. “Please just go in once. It was a tie game. I knew I had to make it. I am so thankful it went in. I was going crazy.”
Despite Schmader’s struggles with her shot during the game, her head coach, Terry Dreihaup, kept encouraging her to shoot.
“I kept telling her to keep shooting the ball,” Dreihaup said. “Keep following through, keep following through. They will go in, they will go in. When she pulled up for the shoot, as soon as it left her hand, I knew it was going in. It was just a great shot for her at a great time in the game, her first and only points of the game. I couldn’t be happier for her because she was frustrated with her shot all night long.”
Schmader’s shot helped North Clarion, which led by as many as 11 in the first half and by eight late in the third quarter, withstand a strong comeback from Johnsonburg, which tied the game at 37 on a Cassidy King basket off a fastbreak with 2:20 to play.
King’s basket ended a quick 5-0 spurt by the Ramettes, who trailed 37-32 at the under four-minute media timeout but got a banked in 3-pointer by Rylee Casilio with 3:07 to play to spark the comeback.
“I think we got tired towards the end of the game and it showed,” Dreihaup said. “We were lacking a little bit on offense.”
Johnsonburg had a chance to take the lead with 1:13 to play when Emma King, who was in the game because of an injury suffered by Maria Jones with 3:26 to play, was fouled by Gabby Carll. But Emma King missed the free throw, and Cassidy King wasn’t able to stay inbounds on the rebound.
North Clarion, after a timeout, then came down and worked the ball around the perimeter until it found its way to Schmader for the open look.
“It was open, she had to take it,” North Clarion junior Abby Gatesman, who had a team-high 20 points, said. “She pulled through at a really critical time for us. It was really big.”
All of a sudden back down three, Johnsonburg pushed the pace and Casilio tried a 3-pointer that was off the mark, and Schmader brought in the rebound and was fouled. But the She-Wolves weren’t in the bonus yet and had to inbound the ball a couple of more times while being fouled before Sherman got free on a breakaway and was fouled taking a shot with 26.9 seconds left.
Sherman missed the first free throw but hit the second one to make it 41-37 North Clarion.
Cassidy King, however, was fouled by Carll and hit two free throws with 19.1 seconds left to get the Ramettes back within two.
Johnsonburg then fouled Carll, and the lone senior starter and one of just three on the team, hit both ends of the one-and-one to restore the four-point lead with 18.3 seconds left.
Gatesman then blocked a Casilio 3-point attempt, and Carll was fouled on the rebound with 10.6 to play.
This time Carll was off the mark, but Sherman got the offensive rebound and was fouled with just 4.9 seconds left. While Sherman missed the free throw, all Johnsonburg could do was get a meaningless basket at the horn from Cassidy King to set the final margin.
“I’m trying to think of the words,” Dreihaup said when asked what winning a third title in a row meant. “It means a lot of hard work. Those girls put in a ton of work over the summer, the fall, during the season. They worked hard to replace a void we had in the team. They started playing well at the right time.”
The “void” Dreihaup was referring to was the graduation of the school’s all-time leading scorer Tori Obenrader, who was 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound player and has won six PSAC West Freshman of the Week awards at Gannon.
“We knew we were an all-around team,” Schmader said. “Last year, (Tori) was a great player and she knew she had to get the ball at a certain time. But we get open, and we get everyone to shoot. They do what they have to do. We are a great team, and we work together.”
Gatesman is a big reason North Clarion was able to win the third straight title, as the junior, who told her coach after last year’s championship that she wanted four D9 titles, helped North Clarion get off to a fast start Thursday.
Gatesman hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored 13 of her 20 points in the quarter helping the She-Wolves grab a 19-13 lead after one quarter of play.
“We just had to come out and score,” Gatesman said. “We weren’t going to come out and score 20 points and win this game. We just knew we had to take the open shots.”
North Clarion’s lead grew to 24-13 in the first two minutes of the second quarter, but Johnsonburg started to chip away at the advantage. Behind five points from King, the Ramettes closed the gap to 24-20 at halftime with a half-ending 7-0 run.
But North Clarion pushed the lead back to eight, 31-23, late in the third quarter when Sherman pulled in an offensive rebound and laid the ball back in.
That forced a Johnsonburg timeout, and after the break, the Ramettes responded with a 5-0 spurt that included a basket from Cassidy King and an old-school 3-point play from Amanda Williams with 47.7 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the She-Wolves advantage to three, 31-28.
Gatesman, though, answered on the other end, and North Clarion went to the fourth quarter up five, 33-28.
The teams traded baskets in the opening three-plus minutes of the fourth quarter with Lindsay Kocjancic and Cassidy King scoring for Johnsonburg and Sherman – on another offensive rebound – and Gatesman answering for North Clarion with Gatesman’s bucket at 4:45 making it 37-32.
“It feels great,” Gatesman said of winning her third title. “Each one is kind of a little special in its own way. This one felt really good. To be able to come out and play against a really good team, we are really happy.”
Watch all of Schmader and Gatesman’s postgame interview.
Cassidy King had a game-high 21 points for Johnsonburg but was the only Ramettes player to score more than six.
Carll added eight points for North Clarion with Sherman scoring seven. Gatesman completed a double-double with 11 rebounds with Sherman adding six.
Both teams move into the PIAA playoffs with North Clarion facing the sixth-place team out of the WPIAL, either Sewickley Academy or Avella. Johnsonburg will take on the fourth-place team out of the WPIAL, either Vincentian Academy or Quigley Academy.
NOTES: North Clarion is the first Class 1A girls’ team to win three straight District 9 titles since Union won three in a row from 2005 to 2007 … The She-Wolves win keeps the D9 1A girls’ title in the KSAC for the eighth straight year. In addition to North Clarion winning it from 2017-19, Keystone won in 2016, Venango Catholic in 2015, Clarion in 2013 and 2014 and Keystone in 2012.
NORTH CLARION 43, JOHNSONBURG 41
Score by Quarters
North Clarion 19 5 9 10 – 43
Johnsonburg 13 7 8 13 – 41
NORTH CLARION – 43
Mackenzie Bauer 2 0-0 5, Addison Shaftic 0 0-0 0, Cierah Manroos 0 0-0 0, Gabby Schmader 1 0-0 3, Gabby Carll 2 2-3 8, Abby Gatesman 8 1-1 20, Haley Sherman 3 1-3 7. Totals 16 4-7 42.
JOHNSONBURG – 41
Amanda Williams 2 1-1 5, Rylee Casilio 1 0-0 3, Cassidy King 8 4-7 21, Lindsey Kocjancic 3 0-0 6, Maria Jones 3 0-0 6, Emma King 0 0-1 0. Totals 17the 5-8 41.
Three-pointers: North Clariothe n 7 (Gatesman 3, Carll 2, Schmader, Bauer). Johnsonburg 2 (Casilio, Cassidy King)