PUNXSUTAWNEY — Getting past the first round of the state playoffs was at the top of the season checklist for the Brookville Lady Raiders basketball team.
Last Friday night, that goal was stopped short thanks to a strong Central Cambria team that dealt the Lady Raiders a decisive 73-44 season-ending loss in the PIAA Class 3A opener at Punxsutawney High School’s Chuck Daly Gymnasium.
The Lady Raiders won their first state playoff game in 33 years in last year’s opener, so obviously another step further was the goal for head coach Mark Powell’s team. As it turned out, the final record wound up the same at 19-6.
“In the end, it’s the same record,” Powell said. “I thought we were better and got better as the season went along. It certainly wasn’t a disappointment.”
Central Cambria (18-7) advanced to Tuesday’s second round against Shady Side Academy, which beat Greenville 44-36. Central Cambria advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals with a 63-57 win and faces Beaver at a site and time to be announced.
The last three years, the Lady Red Devils were knocked out of the first round by WPIAL power Canevin. The last two years, Canevin went on to lose in the state finals.
“The last three years, these seniors have lost in the first round to Canevin and they went on to the state semis, state finals and every year we’re saying that could be us,” Central Cambria head coach Brittany Sedlock said. “We could be there. I think our goal is to take it one game at a time so right now the goal is to win Tuesday and see how far we can go.”
Four players reached double figures with McKenna Hayward leading the way with 19 points. Cassidy Bezek scored 15 points, and Jenna Bauer and Liz Bopp each finished with 10 points.
The Lady Red Devils shot nearly 50 percent (30-for-63) despite struggling from the 3-point line, going 2-for-21.
Central Cambria led from start to finish thanks to a strong defense that helped force 22 Brookville turnovers. It led 10-2 to start and 22-6 by the end of the first quarter and the lead got to as many as 32 late in the fourth quarter.
“We were uncomfortable from the start,” said Powell. “We had some early looks that didn’t go in and when that doesn’t happen, it’s hard for us to get things going. Before we got into the press it was 6-0 and then it was 10-2 and it was hard to get things going tonight. Credit to them. They played well.”
The Lady Raiders, who had their seven-game winning streak snapped, were led by Marcy Schindler’s 14 points and eight rebounds. Morgan Johnson finished with 11 points.
Central Cambria led 37-19 at halftime and outscored Brookville 15-14 in the third quarter for a 52-29 lead going into the fourth before building a 21-11 advantage over the final eight minutes.
“We thought we had nine big minutes, the first three, first three in third and last three in games,” Powell said. “Those first three were crucial tonight. I knew that going in. We just didn’t get off to the start we needed to in the first three minutes.”