YATESVILLE – Playoff basketball is nothing like figure skating or like throwing a grenade in a war zone.
There are no style points and close just isn’t good enough.
Holy Redeemer proved it knows what matters in playoff basketball – winning – grinding out a 39-30 victory over Abington Heights in the District 2 Class 3A girls quarterfinals Saturday at Pittston Area.
With the victory, Holy Redeemer advances to the district semifinals Wednesday against No. 6 seed Honesdale, a 73-64 winner over Dallas. Regardless of the outcome, the Royals will also play Saturday, either in the district final while already having clinched a trip to states or in the third-place game, where the winner advances to PIAA play.
“I’m extremely happy for the girls but we didn’t play well at all,” Royals coach Chris Parker said. “But they did figure out a way to grind it out. Defensively, we gave up 30 points. Holding a team to 30 is a pretty good showing.”
The teams combined to shoot 27 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 36 times, numbers that are uncharacteristic for such strong programs. No. 2 seed Holy Redeemer (19-6) is regularly among the district’s top teams, including recent titles in 2008 and 2009. No. 10 Abington Heights (13-11) won the last two Class 4A district crowns.
It was just a week ago that Parker talked about slow starts by his team. But the Royals put together an early 9-2 run to take the lead for good three minutes into the game.
“We started in a 3-2 zone to take away their outside shooting,” Parker said. “But I wanted to pick up the intensity because we start so slow, so that’s when we went man. We tried to pick up the tempo; getting into halfcourt sets is not playing to our strengths.”
The big headache for the Comets was what to do with Alexis Lewis. The sophomore forward had 13 points in the first half on her way to a game-high 20. She also had 14 rebounds, six steals and four blocks. Comets standout Kat Rosenkrans got the assignment to keep Lewis in check, but Rosenkrans fouled out with 5:27 remaining.
“Alexis Lewis is tough,” Comets coach Vince Bucciarelli said. “She seems to be everywhere out there. I thought there was three of her on the court at times.
“Kat’s a tough kid. All year we looked to put her on the other team’s best player and she’s gotten the job done. She’s the bull out there for me.”
While Royals leads were extended and chopped at in the first half by Abington Heights, Sara Altemose made sure the lead she helped build stuck. The senior hit three-pointers from either wing in the third quarter, making a 22-18 lead into a 28-20 cushion.
“Sara stepped up big for us with those threes,” Parker said. “And I’ve got to give credit to the girls coming off the bench (Chelsea Skrepenak, Sara Warnagiris, Brianne Frascella and Rebecca Prociak on this day). They played well when we called on them.”
Holy Redeemer’s last field goal came in the final seconds of the third quarter, but the Royals took care of business at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. They made nine of their 11 shots in the quarter from the stripe, keeping their lead at six points or better the rest of the way.
“We did a great job defensively,” Bucciarelli said. “We hustled and controlled the play. But against a good team like Redeemer, you can’t miss as many easy shots as we did early. We make those and we don’t have to go scrapping at the end.”
Lydia Lawson had six assists for the Royals. Breanna Toro had seven rebounds and six blocks for the Comets, who were led by Catie Nealon’s 11 points.
: Emma Henzes 0 0-0 0, Maura Nealon 0 0-0 0, Blair Cacciamani 1 0-0 2, Melanie Coles 1 0-0 2, Catie Nealon 4 1-3 11, Kat Rosenkrans 1 0-0 2, JoJo Shaw 2 3-4 7, Breanna Toro 1 1-2 3, Chloe Shook 0 3-4 3. Totals 10 8-13 30.
: Chelsea Skrepenak 0 0-0 0, Alexis Lewis 7 5-6 20, Alana Wilson 1 1-2 3, Alyssa Platko 1 0-0 2, Lydia Lawson 1 2-2 4, Sara Warnagiris 0 3-6 3, Sara Altemose 3 1-2 7, Brianne Frascella 0 0-0 0, Rebecca Prociak 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 12-18 39.
— AH 2 (C. Nealon 2); HR 3 (Altemose 2, Lewis).