CLASS A GIRLS FIRST ROUND
By Andy Close
SMETHPORT — Sometimes all it takes is one play to completely change the course of a game.
Such was the case in Wednesday’s District 9 Class A first round playoff game between Smethport and Brockway.
Leading by one, 26-25, and momentum seemingly shifting to Brockway, the Lady Hubbers’ Kiyah Taggart drilled a three and was fouled with 3:54 to go in the third quarter.
She made the ensuing free throw, which sparked a 13-1 run that lifted Smethport (14-9) to a 48-35 victory.
“That was big,” said Smethport coach Eric Lutz. “I think it relaxed us a little bit. We seemed to settle in a little bit better and I think it had an effect on them (Brockway) too. It was just a big shot.”
It came right after Brockway’s Taylor Cappetta hit a three to cut the margin to one.
Cappetta committed the foul on Taggart, her fourth of the game, which underlined another second-half story for Brockway — foul trouble.
“We kept coming back, we would dig a hole and then climb out of it,” said Brockway coach Dick Esposito. “The kids were playing better and then that happened and we got into foul trouble and that really hurt us.”
Brockway (11-11) cut the deficit back to single digits, 40-32, off a Ashley Moore jumper with 4:04 to play in the game, but would get no closer.
Smethport went to the line 30 times, including 15 in the fourth quarter and 14 times alone in the game from Morgan Okerlund.
A junior, Okerlund came up big, scoring 20 points and pulling down 15 rebounds.
It’s the sixth time in the last eight game she has scored at least 20 points, which has been a key to the Lady Hubs’ nine-game winning streak.
“At the beginning of the year we had her out front, but we decided right around Christmas to put Molly (Lord) at the point and got Morgan inside,” Lutz said. “It took her three or four games to figure it out because she had been a point guard, but she got comfortable inside and we got comfortable looking inside as a team. We were more of a perimeter team early in the season, but now we’re hitting Morgan and Katie (Treat) inside and that’s opening up the outside.”
That philosophy was on display early, as Lord took advantage for a pair of first-quarter threes to give Smethport an early 17-11 after the first quarter.
Julie Esposito kept Brockway within striking distance, however, converting a pair of transition layups on back-to-back possessions.
“She’s our catalyst,” Esposito said. “At time she gets frustrated and we have to settle her down, but the kids can hold their heads high, they’ve had a great year.”
Okerlund scored the first five points of the second quarter, as Smethport jumped out 23-16 lead. But Brockway closed the half on a quick 4-0 run to get back within three, 23-20, on jumpers from Laura Felczak and Ashley Cherubini.
Smethport also took advantage of its edge in size, collecting 38 rebounds, 18 of which came on the offensive end.
“We have a big team and we like to take advantage of it,” Lutz said. “We haven’t been outrebounded too often this year. We know we have to take advantage of that size on the shots or getting the rebounds.”
It’s been quite the turnaround for Smethport, which started 5-9, but hasn’t lost since.
“Ever since that last Port loss, the girls seemed like they’ve started to figure it out,” Lutz said. “We moved some people around and everything started to click. Morgan has stepped up her game, which, in turn, has made everybody else step up their game.”
Lutz alluded to Port Allegany (21-0), whom his team will play for a fourth time Friday in the quarterfinal round.
The first three games weren’t particularly close, but Lutz likes the way his team is playing.
“I told the girls we’re playing with house money,” he said. “We know what they’re going to do and they know what we’re going to do. We’re just enjoying the journey right now.”
NOTES: This was Smethport’s first playoff win since defeating Venango Catholic in the Class A first round on Feb. 21, 2012 … Brockway turned the ball over 17 times and Smethport 11 … Brockway finished with 34 rebounds, 13 of which came on the offensive end
Julie Esposito 3-1-4-7, Laura Felczak 2-1-2-6, Taylor Cappetta 2-0-0-6, Ashley Moore 1-0-0-2, Katie Whitaker 1-2-4-4, Adriana Terwilliger 2-0-2-4, Ashley Cherubini 1-0-0-2, Lily Larson 1-0-0-2, Katlyn Cappetta 0-0-0-0, Stephanie Spirk 0-0-0-0, Adriana Azzato 1-0-0-2, Totals 14-4-12-35
Molly Lord 2-2-4-8, Laura Alfieri 1-1-3-4, Kiyah Taggart 3-2-3-10, Morgan Okerlund 6-8-14-20, Katie Treat 1-3-4-5, Racheal Duffy 0-1-2-1, Addysin Gross-Benjamin 0-0-0-0, Emma Stratton 0-0-0-0, Totals 13-17-30-48
Brockway 11 9 5 10—35
Smethport 17 6 1312—48
Three-point FGs: Brockway — Cappetta 2, Felczak 1; Smethport — Taggart 2, Lord 2, Alfieri 1