The Central Cambria girls basketball team entered the District 6 Class AA Tournament as an 11th seed, but the underclassmen-heavy Red Devils nearly pulled off a first-round upset on Wednesday night.
Central Cambria took No. 6 Tyrone to overtime before falling in a dramatic 40-39 game at Richland High School.
The Devils even had an opportunity to win in regulation as Central Cambria ran down the clock for the final shot but couldn’t connect as the score was 35-all after four quarters.
“We worked it to one shot,” Central Cambria coach John Dziack said after his team closed a 9-14 season. “Either you make it or you go into overtime. I thought that was our best opportunity.”
Central Cambria led 10-9 after one quarter and 19-15 at intermission.
But Tyrone used a 15-5 scoring advantage to hold a six-point lead entering the final eight minutes of regulation.
Just as it seemed the Golden Eagles (17-5) were poised to pull away, Central Cambria posted an 11-5 fourth-quarter margin to force OT.
“It wasn’t anything different,” Dziack said. “Our shots weren’t falling in the third quarter. A couple of them went in the fourth quarter.
“Throughout the year, we usually had a quarter in which we didn’t play real well. A lot of times it was after halftime. I think if we would be able to play the game without a halftime we’d be a lot better,” he joked.
Tyrone’s Emily Iuzzolino had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and set up Jordyn Swogger for the go-ahead basket with 28.5 seconds left in overtime. Freshman Alexis Cannistraci had 11 points.
“We got down one,” Tyrone coach Lucas Rhoades said of the final minute in OT. “We took that time and set up that play. I said, ‘I’m giving the ball to Jordan. We’re having Emily setting a screen.’ We worked on that this week. The way they play that screen and roll, I thought Jordan could shake it and go against the screen and get to the basket.
“It was really the first opportunity that posed itself to do that. She saw it. She did it. She finished. That was big.”
There was some drama in regulation too. Central Cambria sophomore Taylor Boring, who scored a team-high 14 points, drove to the hoop and an intentional foul was assessed to Swogger. Boring, who went 9 of 10 on the free throw line, canned both shots to pull the Devils within 35-33 with 3:02 left.
Later, senior Brianna Wasser stole the ball while lying on the floor and pushed it ahead to Jordan Hayward, who converted the game-tying points with 50.2 left. A senior, Wasser played a spirited game and created momentum swings for her team.
Central Cambria got the ball again and patiently worked for a final shot of the fourth quarter.
“The girls did exactly what we told them, hold the basketball, penetrate, if you can get to the basket, look to score,” Dziack said. “If they fluff off, which they did, kick the ball back out because we’ll have an open shooter. I thought it was a good shot. I thought it was in.”
Tyrone advances to play No. 3 Juniata in the quarterfinals. Central Cambria will look to build on the experience.
“They’re all young,” Dziack said. “We started one senior, a junior, two sophomores and a freshman. I thought our freshman (Lauren Stevens) did real well. She rebounded late in the game and put one up and gave us the lead. She worked hard.
“I have good things to look forward to in the future.”