WILLIAMSPORT — There was a stretch or two where its youth showed, but Holy Redeemer showed veteran poise in crunch time.
Freshman Lydia Lawson sank three crucial free throws in the final 80 seconds.
Sophomore Alexis Lewis stole the ball from Athens’ Danielle Stopper and made a layup with 32 seconds left.
And after Stopper missed a potential game-tying layup, sophomore Alana Wilson pulled down the biggest rebound of her young career with 1 second remaining.
Wilson’s work on the glass preserved the Royals’ 40-38 victory over the District 4 champs in the PIAA Class 3A girls basketball first round Saturday at Williamsport High.
“We took a couple of steps late in the game,” Royals coach Chris Parker said. “When we needed a stop, we got it. After they shot, we got the rebound. We didn’t give them second-chance opportunities. And Alexis Lewis had that huge steal to give us the lead.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we gutted it out.”
With the win, Holy Redeemer (21-7) advances to the second round Wednesday against District 1 champion Villa Maria, at a site and time to be determined. Athens ends its season 21-5, though the Wildcats put a scare into the Royals.
But the finish wasn’t without drama — and a flashback to nightmares past.
“It was like the game against Nanticoke in our league,” Wilson said. “They hit a three-pointer with one second left to send that game (Jan. 30) to overtime (which Redeemer won).”
There was no need for extra time Saturday, even though there were five ties and seven lead changes — most of them in the final quarter.
But when Wilson grabbed the final rebound, the Royals came off the bench to celebrate their victory. The officials, however, had awarded a timeout to Parker with one second left, forcing Redeemer to run an inbounds play.
“Coach had told us not to foul, and definitely not to give them an and-one opportunity,” Wilson said of the final shot by Athens. “He also said to make sure they didn’t get off a three.”
After a slow start by both teams, the Royals rattled off nine consecutive points for an early 9-2 edge. Included in that run was two fouls against Athens’ top defender, Rachel Donnelly, sending her to the bench for the rest of the half.
But the Wildcats clawed back, using uncontested threes to knot the game at 11 in the second quarter. Athens enjoyed a couple of other easy baskets to stay within a shot, 18-16, at halftime.
A quicksand pace continued into the second half, where for all their efforts, the Royals could not put Athens away. Wilson hit a three, Sara Altemose made a jumper from the corner and Lewis converted a couple of layups to give Redeemer a 25-18 lead three minutes into the second half. Athens then lulled the Royals to sleep with its deliberate pace and posted 12 of the next 15 points to take the lead 30-28 a minute into the fourth.
“We’ve been consistently reminding them that basketball is a game of runs,” Parker said. “You’ve got to be able to fight through the down times and regroup. We did tonight.”
The teams traded buckets until Lewis’ steal with 34 seconds left. She got her right hand between the ball and Stopper’s hand mid-dribble, took one dribble herself and put up an uncontested layup to give Redeemer a 39-38 lead. Royals junior Alyssa Platko then batted a pass by Athens’ Christin Dunkling to Lawson, who was fouled with 12 seconds remaining.
Lewis had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six steals for Redeemer. Platko had six rebounds and Lawson posted a game-high five assists. The Royals forced 23 turnovers, 14 via steals, and held a 32-27 rebounding edge.
“Winning at states, this feels really good,” Wilson said. “Especially with our team play, everyone was a part of this.”
Dunkling led Athens with six boards.
HOLY REDEEMER (40):Alexis Lewis 6 5-5 17, Alana Wilson 2 0-0 6, Alyssa Platko 3 1-4 7, Lydia Lawson 0 3-4 3, Sara Altemose 1 0-0 2, Chelsea Skrepenak 1 0-0 2, Sara Warnagiris 1 1-1 3, Brianne Frascella 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-14 40.
ATHENS (38): Rachel Donnelly 0 0-0 0, Danielle Stopper 3 0-2 6, Monica Dougherty 6 2-2 17, Danielle Dougherty 1 0-0 3, Christin Dunkling 4 2-2 10, Mackenzie Warner 0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Hafer 0 0-0 0, Jensen Dunkling 1 0-2 2. Totals 15 4-8 38.
Holy Redeemer 11 7 10 12 — 40
Athens 8 8 12 10 — 38
Three-point goals: HR 2 (Wilson 2), ATH 4 (M. Dougherty 3, D. Dougherty).