Old Forge holds off the Lions in States

By on March 13, 2019
Linden Hall senior guard Anya Miller (23) nails a three-pointer in the Lions’ 57-35 win over Sayre last Friday at Conestoga Valley. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Linden Hall senior guard Anya Miller (23) nails a three-pointer in the Lions’ 57-35 win over Sayre last Friday at Conestoga Valley. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Low-scoring games don’t fit Linden Hall’s style.

Not with their depth.

And not with their athleticism.

But Old Forge junior point guard Lindsey Welsh and the Devils obviously had a scouting report to slow down the pace of the game.

That — combined with a tenacious 2-3 zone defense which limited Linden Hall to just 6-of-18 shooting in the second half — frustrated the Lions.

Ultimately, the District Three champion Linden Hall girls saw their season end with a 32-29 setback to Old Forge in a PIAA Double-A second-round game Tuesday night at Easton Middle School.

“We like to put a lot of points on the board,” Lions coach Bob Kauffman said. “We didn’t shoot well, that was part of it. But the rest was just the pace of the game. It was just not quick enough for us.”

The Devils (20-6), who played in the State championship games in 2014 and 2015, advance to Friday’s quarterfinals to play either Mahanoy Area or Sacred Heart. Linden Hall, meanwhile, closes out its magical season with a 19-4 record.

“What did we talk about? We started out by talking about how much we love our seniors (Rachel Kauffman, Anya Miller, Tahri Phillips, Hetta Saatman, and Kierstyn Stevens) and how much they did,” Kauffman said. “They basically built a program from scratch and there’s people coming behind them that are going to benefit, not just them. They had a great experience and they built something that’s going to last because they did it right.”

It didn’t take long for the Lions to build an early 8-0 first-quarter lead, as Miller hit a trey and Saatman chipped in with three points.

But the Devils answered with a 14-8 run and cut the Lions’ lead to 16-14 at the break. Welsh led all scorers with 15 points and sophomore guard/forward Makayla Parker chipped in with 10 points to lead the Devils.

“I thought our energy was low in the first half,” Kauffman said. “(Old Forge) threw in a couple of shots that I didn’t think were particularly their best shots, but they went in. We’ve been a second half team all year. It didn’t really bother us that it was a two-point game at halftime. But the second half, we just weren’t able to get the pace up any better.”

Welsh’s J tied the game, 20-all, with 4:31 left in the third, and then Parker’s ‘three’ from the corner gave Old Forge its first lead, 23-22 with 1:57 to go in the stanza. Parker ended up scoring the Devils’ final seven points of the quarter, the final two following a Lion turnover, making it 27-24.

In all, Linden Hall had six giveaways in the third.

Then when Welsh buried a deep two, the Devils had their biggest lead, 29-24, with 5:23 to go.

Meanwhile, despite Linden Hall’s size advantage, they were unable to capitalize. Old Forge dropped multiple players on 6-foot-2 Saatman when she got the ball inside, and the Lions were 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.

Miller led the Lions with 11 points and Saatman finished with eight.

“We knew they were going to send three people at Hetta when she touched the ball,” Kauffman said. “We just thought we were going to get something other than wide open ‘threes’ out of it. And we never did. And we didn’t make the wide open ‘threes.’ It was just that kind of a night.”

Linden Hall junior forward Jumoke Adaramoye got a steal and then sank a leaner with 2:01 left, cutting the Devils’ lead to 29-27. But then Old Forge sophomore Olivia Ciullo hit a pull-up J, then converted the front end of a 1-and-1 to build the Devils’ advantage to 32-27 in the final minute.

Miller knocked down a runner with :30 left to keep the Lions’ hopes alive, making it 32-29, and then Welsh missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with :13.3 remaining.

Moments later, though, at the other end of the floor, Parker tipped and stole a Linden Hall pass as the Lions were looking to set up a potential game-tying ‘three’ from the left corner.

“(The pass) just wasn’t quite crisp enough,” Kauffman recalled. “You can say they stole it, but I would say, we just didn’t execute. We had an opportunity and we just didn’t execute it.”

Although Parker missed two foul shots with :2.3 to go, a half-court prayer by Miller at the buzzer was off the mark and that was the ball game.

***

Last Friday night, it wasn’t difficult for Sayre coach Eileen Spardutti to read her players’ fatigue in the second half.

And for that reason, she knew that a comeback against Linden Hall was going to be tough.

“I called the one timeout and I said, ‘I can tell you’re tired because you’re not moving to the basket to rebound, you’re not jumping and you’re not thinking. So I know you’re very tired,’” Spardutti said. “We couldn’t make a run at it because of that.”

Sure enough, the District Three-champion Lions took a 40-28 lead after three and never looked back, cruising to a 57-35 victory over District Four runner-up Sayre in a PIAA Double-A first-round playoff game last Friday night at Conestoga Valley High School in Witmer.

Overall, Linden Hall was able to wear down the Redskins with its depth. Seven different players scored for the Lions and 13 total played.

“We ran out of gas,” Spardutti said. “We’re not that deep.”

This wasn’t new ground for Linden Hall (19-3). The Lions advanced to the PIAA second-round each of the last two seasons, losing to Jenkintown 47-21 last year and Nativity BVM 50-48 in 2017.

That was in Single-A, however.

“This was the first (State) Double-A win,” Linden Hall coach Bob Kauffman said, “so if we’re looking for a first, we got one.”

If the Lions were looking for a couple of offensive play-makers against the Redskins (20-8), they got that as well. Senior forward Hetta Saatman scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the second half, and senior guard Anya Miller stepped up with 17.

Miller, in particular, had the hot hand in the first quarter, burying a ‘three’ and dropping in nine points, as Linden Hall darted to a quick 13-0 lead.

“(Anya)’s just a great player,” Kauffman said. “She’s a scorer who has kinda toned that down for us because we really need senior leadership, we need somebody to handle the ball flawlessly. But if at any point in time we need points, Anya will go get them.”

Linden Hall’s man-to-man D also created early headaches for Sayre, forcing numerous turnovers. Senior Camry Lane led the Redskins with 13 points, while senior Stephanie Klovekorn and junior Emily Sutryk added 10 points apiece.

The Redskins finally got on the scoreboard at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter when Klovekorn converted. In fact, that started a 9-2 run by Sayre, which cut the Lions’ lead to 15-9 after one.

Then when Lane nailed a triple, before following with a pull-up J, the Redskins were suddenly within one, 15-14, in the second quarter.

The Lions, though, righted the ship. Senior guard Tahri Phillips scored four points in a half-ending 10-3 run, which stretched their lead to 25-17.

Among their halftime adjustments was to get the ball to Saatman in better position near the basket, the 6-foot-2 Drexel University-recruit scored on a layup, then a putback in the opening 1:24 of the third quarter to put Linden Hall in front by double digits, 29-17.

“We thought in the first half that Hetta was getting the ball a little too far from the basket to be effective,” Kauffman said. “So that was one of our halftime adjustments was trying to just move Hetta in a little bit, and they were able to get her the ball in there.”

Sayre, though, didn’t quit, and back-to-back ‘threes’ by Sutryk narrowed its deficit to 29-23 with 5:37 remaining in the stanza.

Saatman then scored on an inside spin move, starting the Lions on an 11-4 run, and when Miller drained a ‘three’ with 1:39 left in the quarter, the Lions found themselves with a 40-27 advantage.

Lane made one of two free throws to cut the Lions’ lead to 40-28 at period’s end, and then Sutryk’s ‘three’ made it 42-31 with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter. But Sayre would get no closer.

Sophomore center Mercy Ademusayo scored four of her eight points in the fourth quarter to help seal it for the Lions.

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