Portage Girls Basketball

Portage’s Katie Nolan (3) and her teammates celebrate after defeating Tussey Mountain on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

Information on the Christian School of York, the Portage girls’ opponent in their PIAA Class A second-round game at Big Spring High School in Newville at 7 p.m. Wednesday, has been hard to come by.

But instead of worrying about what they may or may not know about the Crusaders, the Mustangs will focus on what has gotten them through this season.

“We got an article and their schedule, but we know almost nothing about them,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “We talked about it with the girls and are going into the game, preparing as we always do for anybody and focusing on Lady Mustangs’ basketball.”

Christian School of York made its first-ever appearance in the District 3 championship, losing to perennial power Lebanon Catholic 40-20 in the title game.

In the first round of the PIAA tournament, the Crusaders (21-7), who play with a roster that features no seniors and a combined eight freshmen and sophomores, downed Math Civics and Sciences. The York school defeated the Mighty Elephants, 44-41.

In contrast to the Crusaders, the Mustangs are an open book.

Portage (22-4) lost back-to-back games to Blairsville and Bishop Carroll, both of which are still alive in the PIAA tournament, in District 6 before breaking through with a huge 60-53 overtime victory over District 5 champ Tussey Mountain in the first round of the state tournament. It was the program’s first victory in the state tournament.

“Our players have been to team camps and many play in the AAU,” Hudak said. “Over the last few seasons, these girls have played in WestPAC and District 6 championships. They have played some of the best teams in the state, so they understand about being in big games against big teams. Right now, we have the attitude ‘Why not us?’ We are among the final 16 teams left in Class A.”

Junior guard Lexi Wozniak averages a team-high 15.4 points with 57 3-pointers for the Mustangs, who also get 13.3 points from junior guard Katie Nolan, 11.3 from senior guard Paisley Zatek and 10 from junior forward Kacie Baker.

Sophomore guard Abby Chobany rounds out the starting rotation.

It is the maturation of Portage’s inside game this season that has helped the team to continue to improve.

“Without a doubt, the continued improvement of our post players, Baker and Lauren McCabe, has helped to make us a more complete team,” Hudak said.

“Our guards are great, but we knew that could only get us so far. We have to be able to score from both the outside and the inside. Over the year, our bigs, along with Siarra Crum and Jordan Caurvina, have really improved.”

Baker averages 7.4 rebounds per game. McCabe averages 4.8 per game and the 5-foot-4 Wozniak adds 4.3.

“Against Tussey Mountain, every girl had her role to play, whether it was in the game or cheering from on the bench,” Hudak said. “We lost some great seniors from last year, and not many people believed in the core of girls that we had coming back, but we believed that we would be here, and that’s all that matters.

“We’ve never here before, but we are not just happy to be here and really want to advance to the Elite Eight. Why not us?”

Cory Isenberg is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5080.​ Follow her on Twitter @CoryIsenbergTD.

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