Lady Eagles continue turn-around with big win over P-O

If on January 11 you had said the Tyrone Lady Eagles were within one month of scoring 71 points in a single game and riding a four-game winning streak, you would have been:
a) Hopelessly optimistic
b) Living in 1994
c) Delusional
d) A very good fortuneteller
The answer is e) all of the above. That’s because on January 11, the Lady Eagles suffered one of the most demoralizing losses of their season, a 43-42 setback on the road against Bald Eagle Area in which they made just 19 of 51 shots.
It was one in a long string of games for Tyrone shooting below 30 percent from the field, but this one was different: against a team that was almost looking for ways to lose, the Lady Eagles stumbled over themselves and let BEA off the hook. They fell to 5-8 and literally reached rock bottom.
That should help to put last night’s 71-32 victory over Philipsburg-Osceola into perspective, as well as the four-game winning streak that has the Lady Eagles (11-12, 6-8 Mountain Athletic Conference) within a game of .500 with one regular season contest remaining. If anyone saw it coming 28 days ago, they were in a very small minority.
Ask coach Jim Swaney and he’ll tell you that some of the turnaround can be attributed to a change in attitude, and some can be attributed to the maturity and development of what still is a relatively young team.
But the bottom line is this: when Tyrone has scored points, it has won games, and over the last three weeks, the Lady Eagles are scoring points and getting steady contributions from three, four and even five players per night.
Last night, senior Hilary McNelis again led Tyrone in scoring with 21 points, but she was aided by 10 other players who cracked the scoring column. Sophomore Stefani Bryan scored in double-figures for the second time in as many weeks, netting 10, as did Emily McKenna, who likewise scored 10.
It didn’t stop there. Junior Marissa Hoover, an emerging offensive force who has made a living lately on put-backs from the weakside, scored seven. Junior Sharon Long scored six, all in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Liz Tepsic scored three in 1:30 just before halftime.
With that kind of balanced scoring effort, it’s little wonder that after the win the even-headed Swaney allowed that, “we’re getting pretty good.”
“In some ways, I think the first Bald Eagle Area game and the second Bellefonte game (a 54-37 loss) were blessings because after them, we got together and had talks as a team,” Swaney said. “I probably said some things people didn’t like, but it was important to say them.”
Since Bellefonte game No. 2 on January 18, Tyrone’s scoring average has erupted like the Dow Jones Average during the Dot-Com craze of the late 1990s. A team that at times has struggled to reach 40 points, the Lady Eagles have scored 60 or more four times in the last eight games, and twice surpassed their season-high single-game point total, including last night.
In those eight games, Tyrone is averaging over 56 points per game, more than nine above its average for the season.
“We’ve worked a lot with some hard shooting drills in practice, but really it’s a matter of the kids believing,” said Swaney. “The talent has always been there.”
Against the Lady Mounties, who were celebrating Senior Night, it was apparent that not only was the talent there for Tyrone, but it was well beyond that of Philipsburg-Osceola – a freshman- and sophomore-driven team that makes Tyrone’s junior dominated lineup look like old-timers.
The Lady Eagles blew wide open what was a 9-7 game with 1:07 left in the first quarter with a 14-0 run to end the first period and start the next. It was a vintage Tyrone run that got four different players involved in the scoring and forced P-O to come out of the triangle-and-2 defense it employed to slow McKenna and McNelis.
The run started when junior post Ashley Roth stepped outside and drained one of Tyrone’s seven three-pointers from the right wing with 48 seconds left in the first quarter. Stefani Bryan scored 38 seconds later on a rebound to give the Lady Eagles a 14-7 lead.
Bryan then started the second quarter by draining another trey, followed by a pair of McNelis baskets in the paint. At the 5:40 mark, Tiffany Bradford made a 17-footer from the corner and the Lady Eagles led comfortably 23-7.
But Tyrone wasn’t finished. After P-O leading scorer Erin Albert (16 points) scored at 5:11 to snap the run, the Lady Eagles ran off six more. Albert scored again to break that string at the 2:10 mark, only to have Tyrone rip off five-in-a-row in response.
Particularly when the Lady Mounties were in their triangle-and-2, Tyrone found much of its offensive success from a quick tempo, turning rebounds and turnovers into shot opportunities. In the first half alone, the P-O turned the ball over 15 times against a mix of defensive looks that included man-to-man, 2-1-2 full-court and 1-3-1 half-court pressure.
The second half was more of the same. In the third quarter, P-O turned the ball over eight times and the Lady Eagles made three three-pointers. McNelis scored 12 in the frame and McKenna six .
Tyrone began the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run, and extended its lead once again, despite seven points by Albert.
The victory set the stage for Tyrone to close out its season at 12-12, providing the Lady Eagles can beat 14-8 Williamsburg on the road on Thursday. A win there would complete one of the more incredible regular-season turnarounds in the Swaney era, and send Tyrone into the District 6-AA tournament on a high note.
“That will be our biggest game of the year so far,” Swaney said. “The girls know they have worked too hard over the last three weeks to take a step backwards. That’s not going to happen.”
HOOP NOTES: Tyrone shot 25 for 67 (37.3) and P-O was 12 for 37 (32.4) … the Lady Eagles turned the ball over only eight times … Bryan led Tyrone with five rebounds … P-O turned the ball over 31 times … the Lady Eagles will face Bishop McCort in the first round of the District playoffs. Tyrone defeated McCort 56-54 December 16 in the Hollidaysburg Golden Tiger Classic … Philipsburg-Osceola fell to 3-19 and 0-14.
Tyrone’s jayvees breezed past Philipsburg-Osceola in the preliminary game, jumping out to a 13-1 lead on the way to a 51-23 victory.
Liz Tepsic led Tyrone with 10 points, while Stefani Bryan added nine. Kayla Corle and Megan Turiano added eight points each.
Tyrone 71 Philipsburg-Osceola 32
Tyrone – McKenna 4 1-1 10; Ingle 2 0-0 4; Lloyd 0 1-2 1; Hoover 3 1-2 7; Roth 1 1-2 4; McNelis 7 5-6 21; Bradford 1 0-0 2; Bryan 4 0-0 10; Long 1 4-4 6; Tepsic 1 1-2 3; Corle 1 1-2 3; Russell 0 0-0 0; Turiano 0 0-0 0; Walker 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 25 15-21 71.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA – Kitko 0 1-4 1; Turner 4 0-0 8; Whitman 1 0-0 2; Lugin 0 1-4 1; C. Cartwright 0 2-2 2; Albert 6 4-5 16; Cowher 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12 8-15 32.
TYRONE 14 20 20 17 – 71
THREE POINT GOALS: Tyrone 7 (McNelis 2, McKenna 2, Bryan 2, Roth 1).