Bridgette Mann catapulted the Lady Bucks into a state playoff berth with clutch overtime play
SCRANTON — Paupack has produced its fair share of talented teams and star players over the course of its long and storied hoops history.
However, this latest incarnation of the Lady Bucks varsity squad has finally attained a milestone moment to which no past team can lay claim.
On Friday evening at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Wallenpaupack Area captured its first-ever District Two Class AAAA crown by dealing Wyoming Valley West a heartbreaking overtime loss.
Bridgette Mann played the hero's role in this one, scoring all four of her team's points in the extra session to seal the deal on a 44-42 triumph.
"Valley West was able to adjust to us in the third, but our girls kept up and played hard through the last quarter and into overtime," Coach Holtzer said.
"This team is resilient. They fight back, claw their way out of situations, and just never give up."
With this electrifying victory, Paupack now advances to the PIAA state tournament. The Lady Bucks will open up the Class AAAA bracket Friday night at Scranton High.
There, they'll square off with Parkland, the #3 seed from District 11. Opening tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
Setting the Stage
The Lady Bucks have come a long way since the season began with its usual spate of holiday events.
In his first season at the helm, Coach Holtzer guided his young squad to a first place finish at the Hawley Rotary Tournament and a third at the Honesdale Area Jaycees tourney.
After that loss to the Hornets, Paupack reeled off 12 wins in its next 14 games, eventually claiming a Lackawanna League title and dealing Honesdale a pair of losses.
The Lady Bucks had piled up 18 wins and were looking to accomplish two major goals: Win the D-2 title and qualify for states.
They took their first step toward attaining those goals by blasting Scranton, 58-38, in the Class AAAA semis.
This victory earned top-seeded Paupack a date with Valley West in the 2012-13 championship game.
The Spartans entered the fray with 14 wins, a third place finish in the WVC's Division One and an overall #2 seeding.
Here & Now
Paupack leapt out to an early lead against Valley West and appeared destined for another lopsided win.
Behind yet another huge night from Alexix Roman, the Lady Bucks led by two after one and by six at intermission.
Roman was her usual dominant self in the paint.
The all-star senior center powered her way to another double-double, pouring in 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Valley West stayed in the game thanks in large part to the potent 1-2 punch provided by juniors Cassie Smicherko and Olivia Hoffman.
Smicherko sniped away from the perimeter and ran the floor with abandon in transition. The 5'7" guard knocked down one deep trey and finished her night with 13 points.
Hoffman tried her level best to deal with Roman in the low post at both ends of the floor. The 6'1" center recorded a double-double of her own with 14 points and 13 boards.
The Spartans dominated the third period, outscoring Paupack by a 13-4 margin.
However, the Lady Bucks bounced back in the fourth quarter. Roman muscled her way to a bucket off a sweet entry pass from Nicki Mann and moments later the game was headed to overtime.
Bridgette Mann then took charge of things, dialing up a deep 3-ball to give her team the lead. Then, with just 10 seconds remaining in OT, Mann punched Paupack's ticket to states with a clutch free throw.
She closed out her game with 14 points including three from beyond the arc.
Smicherko managed to heave up an off-balance trey at the buzzer, but it was no good and Lady Buck fans began to celebrate.
Junior point guard Nicki Mann didn't crack the scoring column, but did hand out five assists and record four steals.
Raeann Ehrhardt chipped in with three points, while Kaelyn Ragonese and Dani Palazzi rounded out the Paupack scoring with two each.
Score by Quarters...
WAL (20-5) 14 9 4 13 4 - 44
VW (14-10) 12 5 13 10 2 - 42