By Rich Rhoades
CLARION — A newcomer to the Class AA ranks, the Clarion-Limestone Lady Lions are liking how things are going so far.
The traditional Class A school reached the higher classification’s championship game in its first try with a convincing 53-32 win over Kane Thursday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium
Next up for the 16-8 Lady Lions in their first finals appearance since their Class A Championship loss way back in 1994 is top-seeded Karns City. The Lady Gremlins dealt C-L a Mercy Rule 75-33 loss back on Jan. 31 at Karns City.
“We set goals at the beginning of the year. We wanted to win both tournaments we played in and we achieve those and play for a district title, so we’re there right now,” Lady Lions head coach Doug Rodgers said. “The community has been great, the school great and it’s nice for the girls because they’ve worked so hard … it means a lot for the entire team, not just the ones on the floor.”
Because the top two finishers in Class AA girls go to states, the Lady Lions will reach the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2007 when they finished fourth in Class A.
Torrid shooting out of the gate set the tone and keyed the Lady Lions to the win. Three 3-pointers by Lily Port in the first three minutes of the game, put C-L up 9-5 and it never trailed the rest of the way.
C-L wound up shooting 56 percent from the field (14-for-25) in the first half and staked a 36-18 lead by halftime. From there, Kane never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way even though the Lady Lions cooled off considerably in the second half.
“They came ready to play,” Rodgers said, alluding to the long layoff between Thursday and their quarterfinal win over Cranberry last week. “They had eight days to prepare. We knew that (Kane) would do a little bit of everything … We prepared for all of that and they did all of it and we were ready for that.”
Port finished with 18 points, thanks to the hot start and 4-for-7 shooting from beyond the 3-point line. Kane came in looking to crowd senior forward Abby Mellott after her 23-point, 15-rebound effort against Cranberry, so Port’s perimeter game shook things up.
“Lily Port came out on fire in the first half and did a tremendous job,” Rodgers said. “That’s the way she’s capable of playing.”
She wasn’t alone. Josie Stitt was active, finished with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and four steals. Alissa Burns had 11 points and Mellott scored nine points and collected 10 rebounds.
Kane’s season ended at 13-13. It was a promising season from a very young team under head coach Dave Kiehl, who lost nearly everyone from last year’s 21-7 district runner-up squad.
Freshman Camryn Cummings turned in a double-double with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 10 rebounds. No other player scored more than five points as the Lady Wolves wound up shooting 27 percent (15-of-55) from the field.
NOTES: C-L has appeared in four Class A finals. The Lady Lions lost in 1993 and 1994 to Coudersport and 1979 to Johnsonburg. The Lady Lions won their lone district title as the No. 10 seed in 1988 with a win over Northern Potter.
CLARION-LIMESTONE 53, KANE 32
Score By Quarters
Kane 12 6 6 8 – 32
C-L 18 18 4 13 – 53
Kane – 32
Sydney Dyne 0-2 0-0 0, Kelsey Johnson 2-10 0-0 4, Taylor Morgan 2-9 1-2 5, Kiley Kinney 2-15 0-0 5, Camryn Cummings 7-10 0-2 14, Katelyn Moran 0-2 0-0 0, Emily Truden 1-3 0-0 2, Lindsey Hottel 1-1 0-0 2, Alaina Barner 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Hauser 0-2 0-0 0, Ashley Jordan 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 15-55 1-4 32.
C-L – 53
Josie Stitt 6-10 0-0 12, Lily Port 6-16 2-4 18, Abby Mellott 4-10 1-2 9, Alissa Burns 3-10 5-7 11, Megan Kelley 1-9 1-2 3, Paige Aaron 0-0 0-0 0, Olivia Shilling 0-0 0-0 0, Kaydee Songer 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Baker 0-1 0-0 0, Monique Monrean 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-57 9-15 53.
3-pointers: Kane 1-14 (Kinney 1-9, Johnson 0-3, Truden 0-1, Hauser 0-1), C-L 4-8 (Port 4-7, Stitt 0-1). Rebounds: C-L 44 (Stitt 11, Mellott 10, Kelley 10), Kane 37 (Cummings 10). Turnovers: Kane 19, C-L 15.