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Tyrone girls edge undefeated McCort to gain berth in finals

A 19-point lead just doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to.
That was the size of the Tyrone Lady Eagles’ lead over Bishop McCort last night in the first round of the Hollidaysburg Golden Tiger Roundball Classic at Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School.
It was midway through the third quarter, and with Tyrone ahead 43-24 over the undefeated Lady Crushers, it looked like Tyrone might get some work for its jayvees after all in the varsity-only tournament.
But McCort’s 5-0 breakout to start the season was no fluke, so it was no surprise when the Lady Crushers pushed back to eventually take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. What was surprising was Tyrone’s response.
The underclassmen-dominated Lady Eagles never batted an eye, and led by two timely hoops by Hilary McNelis and Emily McKenna, along with a big rebound from Emily Lloyd, they held on to defeat McCort 56-54 and advance to the championship game on Saturday.
There, they will play Hollidaysburg Saturday night at 7 p.m. for the championship.
“We hung in and survived, and when you’re as young as we are, that’s big,” said Tyrone coach Jim Swaney. “Especially against a team that talented.”
The victory hiked Tyrone’s record to 3-2, putting the Lady Eagles just one win off last season’s win total with only five games down.
The game also marked the first time this season Tyrone found itself matched with a team that played more to its strengths than not. In four previous games, the undersized Lady Eagles found themselves packing their defense down inside against teams with two posts that could score from the blocks. Tyrone matched much better with McCort’s guard-oriented offense, and managed to limit the Crushers’ lone inside threat – 6-foot senior Jessica Mock – to five points.
McNelis topped Tyrone with 20 points, while McKenna added 14. Lloyd, coming off her best offensive game as a varsity player against Lewistown, chipped in eight points, and – along with McKenna and Lloyd – was a key component in a defensive scheme that for almost three quarters befuddled McCort’s talented backcourt.
“I can’t say enough about how well Emily Lloyd is playing right now,” said Swaney. “She’s sick as a dog right now, but she hung in. McNelis is an offensive force. She’s strong and has a knack for shooting. And McKenna, tonight, played like one of the better five or six kids in Blair County.”
All of that was important as time wound down in the fourth quarter. McCort took its first lead of the game with 2:26 left when Alli Ayres scored inside, putting the Crushers up 52-51. But it didn’t last long as McNelis answered 20 seconds later, scoring on an acrobatic drive from the top of the key to put the Lady Eagles back on top 53-52.
McKenna then nearly put the game away with just over a minute left when she drilled a three-pointer from the corner, stepping in on an inbounds play against McCort’s 2-3 zone. That made it 56-52 with 1:15 left, but the game was far from finished.
Over the next 75 seconds, Tyrone turned the ball over twice, stole the ball from McCort, and used its last two timeouts. McCort, meanwhile, turned the ball over once, forced a jump ball to retain possession after a near turnover, and missed the back end of two one-and-ones at the foul line.
The second miss came with five seconds left. Shannon Yingling dove in to get the rebound, but her follow-up missed, and Lloyd, amidst a pile of players, yanked down the board as time expired.
As hectic as it was, the wild finish was mild compared to McCort’s comeback in the third quarter. It started with a basket by Kylie Weaver that cut Tyrone’s lead to 43-26, and allowed the Crushers to turn up the intensity of their full-court pressure, which they had been running since the opening tip. Then their guards began heating up, and back-to-back three pointers from Dani McIntyre and Brook Pioli cut it to 43-32.
McCort finished the quarter in full-court man pressure, scoring twice off Tyrone turnovers in the last four seconds, the final two coming on a Rachel Price layup as time expired, slashing Tyrone’s lead to 43-38 after three quarters.
“They’re a senior dominated team and a very experienced team,” Swaney said of McCort. “We’re a very young team, so sometimes things like that happen. They extended their full-court pressure and did a great job with it, and what was really causing us fits was getting the ball inbounds.”
The Lady Eagles handled McCort’s pressure well in the first half, with McKenna breaking it often with long passes for baskets. McNelis scored six in the first quarter as Tyrone went up 14-7, and added nine more in the second quarter to help Tyrone build a 29-18 lead at halftime.
Tyrone forced 11 Lady Crusher turnovers in the first 16 minutes, and turned it over just three times.
GAME NOTES: Tyrone turned the ball over 13 times in the second half … Price led McCort with a game-high 21 points … the Lady Crushers hit six three pointers, four in the second half … Tyrone played 10 players, with six scoring.
Tyrone 56 Bishop McCort 54
Bishop McCort – Price 19, Yingling 11, McIntyre 7, Mock 5, Weaver 5, Pioli 3, Basile 2, Ayres 2. Totals 20 8-13 54.
Tyrone – McNelis 22, McKenna 16, Lloyd 8, Hoover 4, Bradford 4, Ingle 2, Roth 0, Bryan 0, Long 0, Tepsic 0. TOTALS 22 5-12 56.
Score by Quarters
Bishop McCort 7 11 20 16 – 54
Tyrone 15 14 16 11 – 56.