Maddie Mrochko, Hazleton Area girls basketball team recover quickly to beat Dallas

By Paul Sokoloski - [email protected]

HAZLE TWP. — Much to her chagrin, Maddie Mrochko didn’t start Thursday’s big girls basketball showdown for Hazleton Area.

She made sure the Cougars finished in style, though.

Mrochko fought off a recent illness and came off the bench to score 17 points, none more important than her first five that triggered red-hot Hazleton Area’s comeback from an 11-point deficit that turned into a Cougars 55-42 victory over Dallas in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 showdown at Hazleton Area High School.

“It fired me up,” Mrochko said of relinquishing her starting role for a night. “I was ready to go.”

The night before, she was ready to go home.

“She was sick,” Hazleton Area coach Joe Gavio said. “She missed a practice (Wednesday). She had a really, really good night. She felt real good tonight.”

Mrochko made the Cougars feel even better, as they improved to 4-0 atop the league’s Division 1, ahead of 3-1 Crestwood. Meanwhile Dallas fell to 3-2 after winning its first two league games.

But not before making a statement.

The Mountaineers ran off the game’s first 11 points behind a pair of 3-pointers from Olivia Johnson and a trey from Gianna Centrella midway through the opening quarter.

“They came out, punched us in the face,” Gavio said. “We didn’t flinch.”

At least, not when Mrochko popped off the bench and into the game.

She scored Hazleton Area’s first points on a jumper with just under three minutes remaining in the opening quarter, then pulled the Cougars within five points with a 3-pointer 78 seconds from halftime, as her spirited play almost immediately lit a spark.

“You think so?” Gavio laughed. “You’re damn right. Once we got going, we didn’t take the pressure off.”

Faith Grula got started with the first two of her game-high 20 points as Hazleton Area chopped the Mountaineers’ early double-digit lead down to three points by the end of the first quarter, then cut loose for eight more in the second.

Mrochko added three free throws in the period, and the Cougars took a 29-27 lead into intermission.

“I didn’t start because I was sick,” Mrochko said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to do my best to get the lead back.’ I’m thinking, ‘We just need to take a step back, realize what we need to do as a team.’ “

Dallas didn’t back down, though.

Olivia Johnson hit three of her five 3-pointers in the second quarter and scored all of her team-high 17 points in the first half as the Mountaineers recovered from a six-point deficit midway through the period to pull within a bucket.

And despite losing big gun Lauren Charlton to an apparent elbow injury 1:04 from halftime, the Mountaineers made a couple runs to hang close through most of the second half.

They were within seven points with 2:18 on the clock — not a mountainous climb with shooters who knocked down eight 3-pointers in the game — when Mrochko scored seven straight points to ensure Hazleton Area’s victory.

She started with a layup, then swished five of six foul shots to extend Hazleton Area’s advantage to 53-39 with 39 seconds remaining.

“That’s always in the back of my head — you’ve got to make those,” Mrochko said. “But I felt pretty confident. We played so cohesively together. This was the best we’ve played as a team.”

Wyoming Valley West 61, Pittston Area 49

Toni Amato led the way with five 3-pointers for the Spartans.

Nicole Boutanos, Lindsey Gruver and Andi Blaski also finished in double figures for Wyoming Valley West, with Boutanos adding 14 points and Gruver and Blaski each scoring 10.

Pittston Area was paced by Leah Hodick and Emma Coles. Hodick finished with 17 points while Coles added 16.

Hazleton Area 55, Dallas 42

DALLAS (42) — Hanna Johnson 3 1-2 7, Olivia Johnson 6 0-0 17, Kendra Saba 1 0-1 2, Lauren Charlton 1 0-0 3, Samantha Kern 2 0-0 4, Gianna Centrella 1 3-4 6, Morgan MacNeely 1 0-0 3, Hannah Doran 0 0-0 0, Samantha Michael 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 4-7 42.

HAZLETON AREA (55) — Brooke Boretski 1 0-0 2, Kyra Antolick 0 0-0 0, Faith Grula 10 0-1 20, Marissa Trivelpiece 3 3-4 9, Virginia Yurchak 2 2-4 7, Maddie Mrochko 3 10-12 17, Diamond Truluck 0 0-0 0, Olivia Wolk 0 0-0 0, Mia Cundro 0 0-0 0, Abby Valente 0 0-0 0, Erin Potskie 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 15-21 55.

Dallas`13`14`10`5 — 42

Hazleton`10`19`13`13 — 55

Three-point goals — DAL 8 (O. Johnson 5, Centrella, Charlton, MacNeely); HAZ 2 (Yurchak, Mrochko).

Wyoming Valley West 61, Pittston Area 49

WYOMING VALLEY WEST (61) — Toni Amato 6 5-6 22, Nicole Boutanos 3 9-12 15, Lindsey Gruver 3 2-2 10, Andi Blaski 4 2-3 10, Grace Giva 2 0-0 4, Katlyn Rincavage 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 18-23 61.

PITTSTON AREA (49) — Leah Hodick 4 9-9 17, Emma Coles 7 2-2 16, Alexa Noone 4 2-2 13, Andrea Ruby 1 0-0 2, Mary Silinskie 0 1-2 1, Portia Weidlich 0 0-2 0, Nicole Zambetti 0 0-0 0, Lily Savoy 0 0-0 0, Brooklyn Pendana 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 14-17 49.

Valley West`16`8`19`18`—`61


Three-point goals — WVW 7 (Amato 5, Gruver 2); PIT 3 (Noone 3).

By Paul Sokoloski

[email protected]

Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski

Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski