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Emotional Roller Coaster: After Joy of D9 Championship, Redbank Valley Girls Basketball Team Experiences Sorrow of Falling in First Round of PIAA Playoffs

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Saturday, the tears were of joy.

A little more than 72 hours later, the tears shed Tuesday night were of sadness.

(Photo by Dave Cyphert/ProPoint Media Photography. More of his work can be found here)

The highs. The lows.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

The freshly minted District 9 Class 3A champion Redbank Valley girls basketball team could never get its offense in gear, struggling to go on runs and scuffling to make baskets that are usually a matter of routine for the Bulldogs in a 49-44 loss to District 7’s Laurel in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs.

It was not how the four seniors — Claire Clouse, Ryleigh Smathers, Madison Foringer and Katie Davis — envisioned their careers ending.

After Clouse picked up her fifth foul with less than a minute remaining, the senior guard sat down on the bench and shared a solemn hug with Smathers.

“Us coaches have had these seniors since third grade,” said Redbank Valley coach Chris Edmonds. “They’re a special group. At the end of the day I think all four go down in the memory books for Redbank Valley basketball. At the end of the day, these four seniors did a lot.”

Clouse was one of the bright spots, scoring 11 points and also playing strong defense against Laurel.

“She’s been doing that for three solid years,” Edmonds said. “Claire sort of makes us go. She doesn’t get recognized for it, but her teammates and us coaches know what she brings to this team. She’s our leader and she didn’t want her season to end.”

What hurt the Bulldogs was finishing — something they have had little trouble doing this season.

Missed shots plagued Redbank Valley — both teams, really — in the first half with the Bulldogs going into the break down 14-13.

Both teams heated up in the third.

Redbank Valley trailed by as many as seven in the quarter, but rallied to knot the game at 29-29 early in the fourth.

What helped the Bulldogs to 22 wins this season was a penchant for going on big runs, their ability to beat the other team down the court in transition for easy points and their ability to salt away a lead.

Laurel took away all of those things.

Redbank’s biggest run was 5-0. The Bulldogs got very few points in transition. And they never led after taking going up 15-14 early in the third quarter.

“I was really impressed with our defense,” said Laurel coach Jim Marcantino. “Our press, I thought, affected them a little bit. I was really proud of the girls.”

Danielle Pontius scored 19 points to lead the Spartans. She scored 10 of those points in the third quarter and made two crucial free throws in the closing seconds.

“She really played an all-around good game,” Marcantino said. “She handled the ball and handled the pressure well and she shot the ball very well.”

Redbank did not.

The Bulldogs shot just 31 percent from the floor.

Alivia Huffman, though, had a big night for Redbank Valley, especially in the post where the Bulldogs had a distinct advantage.

Huffman, who was named the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference MVP Monday night, scored 21 points — 15 in the second half as she tried to carry her team to a victory.

“We wanted to pound the ball inside, which we did a little of tonight,” Edmonds said. “We needed a little bit more tonight.

“Every time we tried to make a run at it, we just came up short,” Edmonds added. “We were never able to get our typical six-, seven-, eight-point runs that we do in the second half.”

It’s been an odd season for Laurel — but it continues.

In January, head coach Matt Stebbins, who once coached at Moniteau and had spent six-plus seasons at the helm at Laurel, resigned.

Marcantino took over as the interim coach and led the Spartans to the WPIAL playoffs, where they lost to North Catholic in the quarterfinals.

The Trojanettes won the WPIAL championship, which pulled Laurel into the PIAA playoffs as the fifth team out of the district in Class 3A

Laurel has also had to overcome injuries. Marcantino only played six players against Redbank.

“We had to come out of our press from time to time because we didn’t have the depth to stay in it,” Marcantino said. “That’s when they seemed to settle in a little bit. I’m just proud of how the girls have stuck together this season.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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