SCRANTON — The Wallenpaupack girls basketball team didn’t need overtime to win a district title this time.
All the Buckhorns needed was a little inspiration from a fallen teammate.
When Nickole Mann was taken from the court on a stretcher with just under four minutes remaining Friday, it helped Wallenpaupack hold onto a 43-40 victory over Wyoming Valley West in the District 2 Class 4A girls title game at Scranton High School.
“I think it definitely helped motivate us more,” Wallenpaupack junior and leading scorer Bridgette Mann said of the sight of her sister being whisked away by ambulance. “The last thing she said to me was, ‘Please, please win this.’”
Bridgette Mann made sure the Buckhorns beat Valley West in the district championship game again, scoring a game-high 22 points — including a free throw that helped seal victory with four seconds remaining.
But Nickole Mann, a senior, did her part, too. Her three-point field goal gave Wallenpaupack what proved to be in insurmountable 38-30 lead, moments before Nickole Mann fell hard to the floor trying to defend a Valley West drive. Her head banged hard off the floor, and after sitting up briefly, slumped back to the floor while screaming in agony.
She was removed by stretcher, and the teams — along with a hushed crowd — sat through a 20-minute delay.
“She’s doing fine,” Bridgette Mann said. “It (the stretcher) was moreso precautionary. The back of her head was in a lot of pain. Then she felt a tingling down her back. That’s why they brought the stretcher.”
After the teams stretched out during a five-minute warmup period, Valley West closed within 38-34 on Olivia Hoffman’s two foul shots with 3:13 to play, and cut its deficit to 42-40 on Hoffman’s short shot with 13 seconds left.
But the Spartans couldn’t quite close the gap all the way on Wallenpaupack.
“Just wasn’t in the cards tonight,” Valley West coach Paul Appel said. “We got the lead awhile in the first quarter. After that, the shots just weren’t dropping.
“It wasn’t our night.”