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Class AAA girls’ basketball final: Punxsy looking for repeat

Hope Bridge-Emma White-Don Long

Hope Bridge (35) and Emma White (15) will help lead the Punxsutawney Lady Chucks into tonight’s District 9 Class AAA Championship game against Bradford. (Photo by Don Long)

CLARION, Pa. — Make it a four-peat matchup in tonight’s District 9 Class AAA Championship girls’ basketball game at Clarion University’s Waldo S. Tippin Gymnasium.

Thanks to top-seeded Punxsutawney’s easy win over Clearfield and Bradford Bri Wells’ two free throws with no time on the clock at St. Marys Wednesday night, top-seeded and defending champion Punxsutawney will square off against Bradford at 6 p.m.

It’s the fourth season these teams face each other in the finals with Punxsutawney ending Bradford’s three-year title run last year with a 39-29 win. Bradford beat the Lady Chucks in 2013 (56-31) and 2014 (31-18) as the favorites.

It’s Bradford’s sixth straight appearance in the finals and third in a row under head coach Bob Hannon. It’s the first trip to the finals for Lady Chucks coach Mike Carlson, who was an assistant under previous head coach Randy Reitz.

Punxsutawney took both of the regular-season meetings, 46-27 at Bradford Jan. 15 and 47-41 last Friday at home and the Lady Chucks have beaten Bradford five straight times since the 2014 championship game.

The Lady Chucks (19-4) bring in a couple of other winning streaks to tonight’s game. They’ve won 10 straight games and their only four losses are to non-D9 teams, their last loss a 61-36 loss at Forest Hills Jan. 18. The Lady Chucks have won 20 straight games against D9 opponents.

Punxsutawney’s strength is its inside players. Sophomore Leah Miller (11.2 ppg.) and senior Hope Bridge (10.9), stand 6-foot and 6-foot-1 respectively. Junior Alli Lunger (7.3) is 5-10.

In last week’s win over Bradford, Bridge was the lone player in double figures with 13 points.

Bradford, meanwhile, beat St. Marys after losing twice to the Lady Dutch during the season. Third-year head coach Bob Hannon’s team has won five of its last seven games. In the win over St. Marys, Wells was the hero at the end with two free throws with no time remaining for the 47-46 win, but senior Raya Hennigan scored all of her team-high and season-best 14 points after halftime. Wells finished with 10 points.

For the season, Wells, a junior, leads the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game. From there, five players average between 4.1 and 6.4 points per game. Senior Lee Woodmansee (6.4 ppg.) is the next highest scorer.

NOTES: Bradford and Punxsutawney are meeting for the 10th time in championship games with Bradford owning a 6-3 edge. … Bradford is seeking its 17th district title (4 in Class AAAA, 8 in Class AAA and 3 in the one-class format from 193-75). The Lady Owls are 16-10 in title games. … Punxsutawney is looking for its 11th district title (3 in Class AAAA and 7 in Class AAA). The Lady Chucks are 10-13 in championship games.