By Andy Close
DUBOIS, Pa. — For the second time in as many seasons, an unbeaten District 9 Class A girls team lost in the semifinal round.
Last season, it was Port Allegany falling at the hands of Clarion. Tuesday, it was Venango Catholic knocking off previously 25-0 Elk County Catholic 50-39 behind a monster second half effort from Ava Homan.
Homan scored 20 of her 22 points in the second half as VC outscored the Lady Crusaders 17-5 in the fourth quarter.
“Ava came up big,” said Venango Catholic coach Tom McNellie, whose club will play Clarion in its first ever District 9 title game appearance. “We started attacking the basket and really started putting on the defensive pressure. I think that was the key.”
Homan was key during the surge, connecting on a 3-pointer to make it 38-34 and then finishing off an old-school three-point play on the ensuing possession to give Venango a 41-35 advantage.
ECC managed just two made shots from the floor in the fourth quarter, a jumper by Kirstie Wehler and a layup by Erin Petrosky.
“We just didn’t make enough shots down the stretch,” ECC coach Ken Pistner noted. “I don’t know if it was a matter of execution, but we had the looks. That’s all you can ask for, it just didn’t happen today.”
The two halves were a contrast in styles, as neither team was able to get much going offensively. One player who did, however, was ECC’s Julia Sweeney, who scored nine points in the second quarter to help ECC to an 18-15 advantage going into the locker room.
“In the first half I though we were tentative,” McNellie said. “Offensively, we were in slow motion and didn’t play our game.”
Sweeney, who finished with a team-high 17 points for the top-seeded Lady Crusaders, scored six quick points in the third quarter, capped by a pair of free throws that gave her team a 30-23 lead.
It appeared, at that point, that ECC was in control, but the Lady Vikings had other ideas.
Homan scored eight points in the period, culminating with a three-point play that cut the deficit to one going into the fourth.
“We had a seven-point lead and had a couple of opportunities to extend it, but we weren’t able to,” Pistner said. “Our kids are usually really good shooters, but you’re going to have some games where you don’t shoot well.”
Taylor Moltz also had 13 points and 10 rebounds for VC (20-6), while the Lady Vikings held Macy Neureiter, ECC’s leading scorer to just two for the game.
ECC will now play in the consolation game against Cameron County at a site, date and time to be determined. Both teams are still assured of advancing to the state playoffs.
“We have nothing to hand our heads about,” Pistner said. “We’re still hoping to make some noise in the state playoffs.”
Venango Catholic 50, Elk County Catholic 39
Venango Catholic 7 8 18 17 — 50
Elk County Catholic 8 10 16 5 — 39
VENANGO CATHOLIC (50)
Taylor Motlz 4-4-6-13, Ava Homan 8-5-5-22, Colleen Cunningham 4-1-2-9, Claire Niederriter 0-0-0-0, Allison Guth 2-0-0-4, Taylor Dziekcizsz 0-2-2-2, Totals 18-12-15-50
ELK COUNTY CATHOIC (39)
Julia Sweeney 6-5-6-17, Macy Neureiter 1-0-0-2, Erin Petrsoky 4-2-6-10, Kirstie Wehler 3-0-0-6, Mackenzie Gahr 1-0-0-2, Reilly Herzing 1-0-0-2, Cassidy Cunningham 0-0-0-0, Maddy Schneider 0-0-0-0, Totals 16-7-12-39
Three-point FGs: Venango Catholic (2) — Moltz, Homan; Elk County Catholic — None