By Rohan Gandhi, Guest Reporter
The Pit starts filling up. The boys’ basketball team, fresh off of a state playoff-clinching performance, are the spectators for a change. Tonight is all about the girls’ basketball team. Tonight is the test to see if the girls can deliver an impressive performance and secure a spot for each ‘Stoga basketball squad in the state playoffs. Can the girls finish the job?
The answer was not so clear early in the game, however. The Lady Bucks of Central Bucks West came out playing aggressively. While the Pioneers managed a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, CB West slowly picked up the pace. Both defenses felt the fatigue of a fast paced game as shots were exchanged by each side. The Pioneer offense stagnated, scoring only 7 in the second quarter, allowing the Lady Bucks to take a commanding lead. The team used the bonus to catch up slightly through free throws, but still trailed 28-23 at the end of the half.
The Pioneers took full advantage of the break to make some much needed adjustments to the game plan. Accuracy on jump shots improved as the Pioneers began their rally. However, two controversial traveling violations were called which prevented the team from closing the gap on the scoreboard. Just when it seemed that the team was struggling again, junior Sarah Mascioli came down hard with a swat to reject a Lady Buck shot. After converting on the next offensive possession, senior Ellie Mack blocked a Lady Buck shot in the same fashion. The defense stepped up and now it was CB West’s turn to score only 7 in a quarter. Sophomore Maria Koblish alone matched the Lady Bucks’ offensive production in the quarter to help gain momentum back for the Pioneers. Ending the quarter with a 9-3 run, the Pioneers led 36-35 but held every bit of momentum.
The Pioneer defense continued to play tight in the fourth quarter, allowing few unanswered points. The team held a 40-38 lead, and coach Chris Jeffries called a timeout with 4:39 remaining in the game. His message to the team was clear: finish the job. Acting accordingly, CB West would not back down, clawing their way back to a 42-42 tie late in the fourth quarter. The atmosphere on the court was tense, but at the right moment, Koblish stepped back and coolly hit a clutch 3 to retake the lead. Koblish’s critical field goal was one of eight on the night for a stellar performance of 17 points. Sensing yet another momentum shift, Mack capitalized on the next possession, adding towards her total of 16 on the night, and setting off a 9-0 run to put the game away. As the clock read 0:00, the bench cleared and the Pioneer Pit stormed the court to celebrate the 51-43 win and the resulting guarantee of a spot in the state playoff tournament.
The win marked one of ‘Stoga girls basketball’s most pivotal performances of the year, coming back from a stifling performance by the opposition.
“Being able to bounce back is really important because not all games are going to be easy,” Koblish said.
The Pioneers will face a challenge in their next game against Perkiomen Valley, one of the top seeded teams in District 1, on Saturday, Feb. 20. The Pioneers may yet again need to rise to the occasion as they battle for seeding in the state playoff.
“We know how to do that,” Koblish said. “All we have to do is focus on practicing hard, listening to our coaches and being together as a team from here on out.”
If the team follows those three fundamentals, nothing can block their path to the championship.