HOLLIDAYSBURG – Prohibitive underdogs facing a defending state champ with two Division I recruits, the Windber Area High School girls basketball team got a little motivation from the storied Rambler boys hoops tradition before tipping off its PIAA Class AA tournament opener at Hollidayburg Area Senior High School on Friday night.
“Before the game, we were told about a Windber team from maybe the 1980s that came out against one of the state champions from the year before, and they beat them. So we came out with a little bit of inspiration,” Rambler senior swing player Marideth Tokarsky said.
Tokarsky and her teammates nearly etched their own names into Rambler lore. But not quite.
Windber twice jumped out to double-digit leads in the first half against Bellwood-Antis.
However, the Blue Devils – particularly Emilie Leidig – went wild from behind the 3-point line in the final two quarters, ending the Ramblers’ season, 70-50.
“It was an honor to play them,” said Windber senior forward Makaela Cominsky, who finished up a career in which she collected more than 1,000 point and 1,000 rebounds. “I’m glad we got to finish playing a good team and, at one point, winning against them.”
More than that. Windber was ahead by 10 on Alayna Elliott’s field goal to open the second-quarter scoring and held an 11-point advantage in the final 2 minutes of the first half.
Elliott finished with a team-high 17 points for Windber (21-5), while Tokarsky scored 14.
Amanda Cominsky had eight points to go with her 13 rebounds.
Bellwood-Antis, though, came out blazing in the third quarter, eclipsing its first-half total with 26 points and outscoring Windber by 20 in the frame, as Leidig scored 12 of her game-leading 28 points and made three of the Blue Devils’ five 3-pointers, and Notre Dame recruit Alli Campbell, just a junior, dished out five assists.
“Coming into halftime up seven and holding them to 21 points, we were pretty confident,” Windber coach Cory Pavlosky said. “I said at halftime,
‘They’re probably going to come out with a haymaker.’ And they threw a couple of them.”
Campbell finished with 25 points and eight steals, many of the latter coming in the third quarter, when Windber turned the ball over 10 times and only managed six shots. Bellwood-Antis junior pivot Sakeria Haralson, who also has committed to a Division I college, wound up with 11 points.
“Basically, at halftime, we talked a lot about how Windber was going to make a lot of other girls’ teams in the state happy if we didn’t turn it around,” Blue Devils coach Jim Swaney said.
Bellwood-Antis (23-3) made 13 of 23 3-point shots.
Windber led by as many as 11 in the first half, going up 28-17 on back-to-back field goal by Makaela Cominsky and Madison Leonardis. Campbell, however, made a 3-pointer in the final minute of the second quarter to cut the Rambler advantage to seven at the intermission.
The Ramblers scored the first six points of the contest and 12 of the first 15.
Elliott netted six in the first 4 minutes. She had eight by halftime, trailing Tokarsky, who had nine.
Campbell missed her first nine shots before coming alive and scoring nine in the second quarter.
“We knew we were going to have to work hard, playing together, and we knew we were going to have to push ourselves. That’s what we did,” Elliott said.
“I knew I was going to have to play hard. It was awesome to get up and stay up for a little while."