To win a war, you almost always must win battles. For the Red Raiders of Lourdes Regional School against the Scotties of Union Area, that scenario was not the case in the Class 1A state final game at Giant Center Hershey on March 24.
That the Red Raiders (22-8) made the state final as the third seed out of District 4, having lost in the first round of the district tournament, is quite miraculous. But Lourdes breezed through the early games of the state bracket and then beat the number one and two seeds out of District 4 to earn the journey to Chocolatetown.
The Scotties, out of District 7 (number one seed), from New Castle just north of Pittsburgh, played an excellent basketball game to beat Lourdes, who peaked perfectly to make their improbable run at a state championship. Union Area, behind the long range three-point shooting of guard Kylie Fruehstorfer, were just too much offensively for Lourdes to defend. Yet, the Red Raiders were only down five points, a two-possession game, with just over six minutes left. The Scotties, however, responded by forcing several key turnovers to ice the game.
Usually, it is Coach Mike Klembara’s Red Raiders who make teams cough it up and turn those full court pressure takeaways into easy baskets. Not so in the state final, as Lourdes never handled the Scotties’ full court zone press, nor did they handle the 2-3 zone in the half-court. The Scotties had length on the perimeter making it difficult for Lourdes to get open looks without forcing up shots. Paityn Moyer nailed a trio of treys to keep Lourdes in the game most of the way, but in the end Lourdes did not have enough weapons to win. The final score was 46-29, but the 17-point deficit in no way means the game was a blowout. Union Area won the state championship because they won the loose ball battles, won the turnover edge easily and simply shot the ball better than the Red Raiders.
This championship appearance marks the seventh time Lourdes Regional has reached the PIAA championship game (five girls and two boys). That is a tremendous accomplishment for the Coal Township school that sits atop Shamokin’s once coal rich ridges.
Gracious in defeat, 39-year veteran Lourdes head coach Mike Klembara gave credit to Union Area for its gold medal play. And while Lourdes graduates three seniors, the nucleus of the team is returning and rumor has it there is a strong freshman class entering the program next season.
“I am very, very proud of these girls and they have worked extremely hard this season. They battled back through a lot of adversity this year and felt adversity in this game. Union played very, very well,” Coach Klembara said afterwards. “This is a great, great accomplishment for our school and that is nothing to be down about.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness