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BITTERSWEET END: Catherine Kelly Becomes Moniteau’s All-Time Leading Scorer, But Warriors Fall to West Middlesex in PIAA Playoffs on Buzzer-Beater

WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — As the basketball rolled around the rim and then fell through the net, Catherine Kelly felt like she had been socked in the gut.

“My heart just dropped,” said the senior guard on the Moniteau girls basketball team.

(Pictured above, Moniteau senior Catherine Kelly hugs teammate Kendall Sankey as the team gathers around after Kelly became the all-time leading scorer in Moniteau girls basketball history)

Just like that, it was over. In a blink. Four years of toil and triumph, adversity and defeat.

It surely was a bittersweet night for Kelly, the Warriors’ unquestioned star. Early in the first half on a short jumper from the corner, she became the all-time leading scorer for the Moniteau girls basketball team.

But when that leaning shot by Caitlin Stephens went in as the final buzzer sounded for a 38-36 win for West Middlesex in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs on Friday night at Moniteau, the suddenness of it all hit Kelly.


“It was just all over in an instant,” Kelly said.

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Kelly scored 12 points to lead the Warriors. She came into the game needing seven to tie and eight to surpass the mark of 1,445 points established by Alyssa Deal in 2006.

She ends her career with 1,450 points.

“It was awesome to get it at home, but now my career is over,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to soak it all in now. Obviously, it’s not the outcome we wanted. We fought. We fought hard, and I’m proud of that.”

Moniteau had a significant height disadvantage against West Middlesex, the third-place team out of District 10.

The D9 runner-up Warriors, though, held their own in the paint in the first half, leading 22-16 late in the second quarter before Stephens sent the teams into the locker room with a basket just before the horn to trim the Big Reds’ deficit to four.

The second half was a battle of attrition with seven lead changes and four ties, including a 36-36 deadlock with 36 seconds remaining after Kelly sank two free throws.

Moniteau got a stop at the other end and had possession, setting up for a last shot. But a turnover gave West Middlesex possession with less than 10 seconds remaining.

After a foul, the Big Reds set up a final play with a little over five seconds on the clock. Freshman Jen Babcock inbounded the ball to Stephens, who pivoted and fired up a shot from the elbow that rolled in, sending the West Middlesex team and bench into celebration.

The 5-foot-10 Stephens, a senior who surpassed 1,000 career points this season, finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds for West Middlesex.

“In the first half, I didn’t think we took advantage (of our height) the way that we should,” said Big Reds coach Mary Jo Staunch. “Give them credit. They shut that look down. But in the second half, we were able to work the ball a little bit better.”

Moniteau coach Dee Arblaster lamented the strategy on the last play.

“It was a coaching error,” she said. “I shouldn’t have put a girl over the ball. I should have doubled (Stephens). That’s a decision I made, and it cost us. She made a nice move. She’s a nice player. I’m super proud of my girls.”

The Warriors also shot poorly in the second half. They were just 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the final two quarters.

Allie Pry added nine points and Abbey Jewart seven for Moniteau, which will have to painfully say goodbye to a slew of seniors — many who have started and played since they were sophomores.

Two of those seniors, forwards Davina Pry and Kendall Sankey, suffered torn ACLs this season. They were the two players who were going to give Moniteau most of its play inside. 

Before Sankey’s injury at mid-season, she was averaging 12 points and 15 rebounds per game.

“We went through a lot of adversity this year,” Arblaster said. “The girls never quit. We got a little tight the last couple of minutes and I called that timeout and probably shouldn’t have because we seemed to get tighter. But I can second guess every decision I made. I just know I’m proud of them.”

So is Kelly, who has gone to battle with her teammates for the better part of four years. Their bonds are strong.

“They mean so much to me,” Kelly said. “I played with most of them since I was in kindergarten and I wouldn’t be half the player I am today without them. They pushed me every day in practice and I’m so grateful to have them.”

Kelly said she knew what she needed to score on Friday night to break the scoring mark.

She tried her hardest not to think about it, but that proved impossible.

“Obviously, I was,” Kelly said. “Once I started scoring a little, I felt better, but my shots just weren’t falling. But we fought hard.”

That’s what Kelly was most proud of this season — seeing her team battle through some tough times.

She was also proud of how the team played after losing Sankey and going through the year without Davina Pry.

“A lot of girls had to play out of position,” Kelly said. “What we lacked in size, we made up for with heart. We were going to go out there and give it everything we had evert time. I’m really proud of that.”

It was difficult for Kelly to fully celebrate her own accomplishment in the shadow of the tough loss.

She said in time she’ll be able to reflect on it with more joy.

When she looks back, she said she never thought she would become the all-time leading scorer when her career concluded.

“Honestly, if you would have told me this was going to happen when I was a freshman, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Kelly said. “I’m very grateful.”

Kelly will play college basketball at Thiel College next year.

“The biggest thing I learned and I can take out of this is you have to go out there and fight hard no matter what, no matter what you’re up against, no matter your size,” Kelly said. “If you have heart and you compete, you’re going to have a chance. You’re going to do well.”

Karns City and Moniteau sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Thinkdolphin Web Design.