Honesdale girls advance to District Two Class AAA semifinals
For three quarters on a snowy Saturday afternoon on the shores of The Big Lake, Honesdale and Western Wayne battled to a stalemate.
More than 1,000 fans packed the stands at Wallenpaupack Area for this District Two girls tournament game ... a game that would ultimately be decided on the glass and at the charity stripe.
Lady Hornet center Natasha Hessling dominated the boards, while point guard Morgan Birmelin drained one clutch free throw after another.
The result was a 38-33 victory for Honesdale and the end of the line for Western Wayne.
"There are eight of us seniors and most of us have been together since first grade," Birmelin said just moments after a win that catapults her squad into the Class AAA semifinals.
"We're all really good friends and we play for each other. That's so important this time of the season because every game could be our last one."
Coach Pilar Beam agreed whole-heartedly.
"I'm very proud of this team," she said. "The girls struggled a little bit at the start, but we got better as the game went on. They're really excited and looking forward to their next challenge."
Weather permitting, that challenge will come Wednesday night when the Lady Hornets face top-seeded Scranton Prep.
The Classics advanced to the semis via a win over Berwick on Sunday. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Carbondale Area.
In the Post
Hessling's dominance in the paint began in the first quarter.
Natasha hauled down rebounds at both ends of the floor, leading to second chance points for Honesdale and short possessions for Western Wayne.
"Tasha did an amazing job rebounding," Birmelin said. "She fights really hard and never gives up."
Once again, Coach Beam was quick to concur.
"Tasha played a heck of a game," she said. "It doesn't matter what the situation is, Tasha always gives 100 percent.
Even though she struggled with foul trouble late in the contest, Hessling piled up a game-high 13 rebounds. She also scored eight points and created five turnovers.
Stacey Hart, Katie Miller and Hessling each tallied in the opening stanza for Honesdale.
Western Wayne retaliated with points from Rachel Carmody, Rebecca Carmody and Kylea Clark.
The two teams fought to a 5-5 tie after one, which led to a 12-12 deadlock at halftime.
"I think there were definitely some nerves early in the game," said Lady 'Cat Coach Colleen Kloss. "But, things settled down after that and both teams played very well."
Miller and Birmelin came to life offensively in the third period. Katie and Morgan each knocked down a deep trey, but Becca Carmody kept pace with seven of her 16 points.
Hence, the game headed into the final stanza tied at 20 ... a stanza that featured more action in eight minutes than in the previous 24 combined.
Western Wayne played inspired defense all game long, but really ratcheted up the pressure as time wound down.
The Lady 'Cats held Honesdale's high octane offense to a total of just seven field goals and none in the fourth quarter. However, the Red & Black countered with a sizzling performance at the stripe.
Birmelin was the ringleader. Morgan missed the first two free throws she tried, but then went an eye-popping 8-for-8 in the final quarter.
"I really don't hear the crowd at all," Birmelin said of her sharp-shooting. "It's just me, the ball and the basket. I just block out all the noise."
Miller and Hart were every bit as efficient down the stretch. Katie went 5-for-6 and Stacey converted 3-of-4.
"We are a very good foul shooting team because we work on it every single day," Coach Beam said. "I have a lot of confidence in all our girls, but especially Morgan, Katie and Stacey."
Rachel Carmody did her best to keep things close. Western Wayne's senior forward drained a long trey laye in the game and was fouled in the act. Moments later, she swished the free throw to complete an extremely rare four-point play.
Unfortunately for the Lady 'Cat faithful it simply wasn't enough. Honesdale continued hitting its free throws and eventually sealed the deal on a 38-33 win.
Birmelin led the way with 14 points and Miller added 11. Hessling (eight pts) and Hart five pts) rounded out the Red & Black attack.
Becca Carmody paced Western Wayne with a game-high 16. Rachel contributed nine to the cause, while Kallie Jones netted three. Hannah Roedel chipped in with two and Clark added a free throw.
Score by Quarters...
HON (18-6) 5 7 8 18 - 38
WW (17-7) 5 7 8 13 - 33