WILKES-BARRE — A lot of folks may have written off GAR’s girls basketball team entering the District 2 tournament.
There’s only eight players listed in the scorebook.
The last time the Grenadiers won a district playoff game, now sophomore starters Majeedah Neely and Brea Seabrook were in fifth grade.
They won six games total last season, and were just 11-10 during this regular season.
GAR proved itself during the district’s Class 2A tournament, eanring a trip to states for the first time since 2008 with a 50-46 victory over Lakeland.
“We’ll take the underdog name,” GAR senior Julianna Leco said. “We’ve proved we’re not the underdogs.”
GAR (14-11) moves on to play the District 4 champions next Friday in the first round of the PIAA tournament.
The matchup between the No. 2 seed Grenadiers and No. 8 Chiefs featured nine lead changes and five ties, yet GAR appeared in control throughout. The Grenadiers’ full-court pressure forced 23 turnovers and GAR owned the glass, posting a 35-23 rebounding edge.
“This is just amazing,” Seabrook said. “We’re a lot more athletic than people think we are.”
“We’re one of the most athletic teams around,” Leco said. “People see we’ve got just seven players and think they can wear us out.”
GAR held the lead for the final nine minutes, taking the lead for good at 35-33 on a Majeedah Neely three-pointer from the top of the arc late in the third quarter. Marie Skrepenak followed with a 12-foot jumper to provide some cushion 30 seconds later — with both set up by Leco assists.
“As long as we come out with the win, we don’t care how we get it,” said Skrepenak, a freshman who had started recent games, but came off the bench with 14 points and 10 rebounds Friday.
The game was tied 14-all 15 minutes in before a flurry of points closed the first half. Lakeland led 19-16 on a three by Natalie Tuffy with 28 seconds left and looked to extend its lead after a missed free throw by Marena Spence. But Seabrook wrestled the ball away from a Chief on the floor, and looked up to find Skrepenak waiting alone on the other side of the basket.
The layup made it a one-point game at half and sparked the Grenadiers.
“I told Brea to play her game,” GAR coach Hattie Caruso said. “I told her to pick up the pace. I’m very proud of this group.”
Seabrook scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half, teaming with Spence for consecutive steals and breakaway baskets in the third for a 30-28 lead.
The points off turnovers continued after Skrepenak opened the fourth quarter with a short jumper. Seabrook took another of her six steals coast-to-coast and she finished a break after a Spence steal and outlet to give GAR its biggest lead, six points with 4:29 still to go.
Meanwhile, despite the limited resources — and in-game injuries to Spence and Lindsey Quinn — the GAR defense held strong. Lakeland managed consecutive scores just twice in the second half and four times in all during the game.
Seabrook finished with 12 rebounds and six steals. Spence added eight points, five rebounds and four steals.
Tuffy had 15 points for Lakeland (15-10) and Kayla Agentowicz added 12, all in the second half. Alissa Steier had nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. Breann Clauss-Walton posted seven rebounds.
LAKELAND (46): Jodie Virbitsky 4 0-0 8, Natalie Tuffy 6 0-1 15, Breann Clauss-Walton 2 1-2 5, Alissa Steier 0 3-4 3, Kayla Agentowicz 5 2-2 12, Taylor Flynn 0 0-0 0, Megan Tweedy 1 0-0 3. Totals 18 6-9 46.
GAR (50): Bre Mosier 1 0-0 2, Marena Spence 2 4-7 8, Julianna Leco 1 0-0 3, Majeedah Neely 1 0-0 3, Brea Seabrook 9 2-4 20, Marie Skrepenak 7 0-0 14, Lindsey Quinn 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 6-11 50.
Lakeland 5 14 18 9 — 46
GAR 7 11 21 11 — 50
Three-point goals: LAK 4 (Tuffy 3, Tweedy); GAR 2 (Leco, Neely)