EBENSBURG — The Tussey Mountain girls basketball team is no stranger to the PIAA state playoffs, and on Saturday they handled Purchase Line with relative ease.
Although the game was tight early on, and several key Lady Titans fell into foul trouble, the Lady Titans used free throw shooting to their advantage to upend the Lady Dragons, 56-38.
Tussey Mountain finished the game shooting 24 for 28 at the foul line and went 10 for 11 in the fourth quarter. Meghan Molosky was six for six at the line in the final quarter, while Lexi Weimert was four for five.
“Meghan and Lexi have been shooting like that all year,” said Tussey Mountain coach Todd Gates. “We have the lead in the fourth quarter — we probably won’t lose the game. We had people in foul trouble, so we’re going to slow it down, and you’re going to come out and put us at the foul line. We’re not going to play defense until we have to.”
Tussey held a 38-32 lead entering the fourth quarter. After two free throws by Purchase Line’s Madison Scalese, the Lady Titans took a 10-point lead with a pair of buckets by Kailee Leonard and one by Lexi Weimert. After a Scalese basket, Molosky scored twice from the foul line and Weimert added four as well.
Purchase Line’s Kristin Zurenko scored twice from the foul line to cut the deficit to 12, 50-28, the Lady Titans finished the game primarily at the foul line. Molosky scored four free throws, while Weimert added a lay-up to solidify the 56-38 victory.
“These games are so difficult,” added Gates on the state playoffs. “You cherish every moment and we’re looking forward t,o the next round and whatever happens. It’s always good to win a state playoff game.”
The game was at a stalemate after the first quarter, 8-8.
Emileigh Syster opened the game with a steal and drove down the court for a lay-up to put Purchase Line ahead. The Lady Titans were fouled three times, going five for six at the line for a 5-2 lead. After a pair of buckets by the Lady Dragons, Tussey’s Maddie Garner and Leonard added a combined three points to pull ahead, 8-6, but Syster added another lay-up to tie the game.
Later in the second quarter, the two teams were tied once again, 12-12. Tussey Mountain gained a small lead with a three by Molosky and a lay-up by Weimert for a 17-12 lead.
The Lady Dragons went three for four at the line, while Weimert added four points to keep the locals ahead, 21-15.
After an exchange of two points, the Lady Dragons nearly erased the deficit to make it a one-point game, 23-22.
Addaleia Beer added a free throw and a pair of baskets by Bethany Smith put the Lady Dragons within a point of the Lady Titans with 1:29 left to play in the opening half.
Molosky added another three and after failed free throw attempts by the Lady Dragons, Tussey’s Keristen Park added two points before Purchase Line’s Abigail Goss added two free throws. Sophie Brumbaugh put in a basket from the paint to push the Lady Titans ahead at the half, 30-24.
The third quarter was much like the opening quarter with both teams scoring eight points each.
However, the Lady Titans fell into foul trouble. Park had four fouls at the half, while Molosky and Garner had three each at the end of third. While some added a fourth in the final period, no Lady Titan fouled out of the game.
“It was real important,” Gates noted on none of his starters fouling out of the game. “We have a couple of starters fouled out — we’re going to be in trouble. They played smart when they had to. We rolled the dice and hoped they stayed in the game.”
Weimert led the day with 20 points, Molosky had 12, and Leonard scored with 12.
The Lady Titans improve to 18-8 for the year.
Three Lady Dragons each had 10 points.
The locals advance to the second round of the Class A playoffs, facing Vincentian Academy on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Central Cambria. Vincentian won 48-46 in overtime against Johnsonburg on Saturday afternoon.
PIAA Girls Class A First Round (5-3) TUSSEY MOUNTAIN 56, (6-2) PURCHASE LINE 38
Tussey Mountain 8 22 8 18 – 56
Purchase Line 8 16 8 4 – 38