CLARION — A senior-less team coming off a six-win season beating a four-time district champion with a 1,700-point career scorer leading the way for a District 9 Class 3A title?
And a coaching milestone at the same time?
Sure why not.
Head coach Mark Powell’s Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in February, too.
Yes, it’s been that type of season for Powell and the Brookville Lady Raiders basketball team.
After putting together a 15-point lead in the first half and maintaining it through three quarters, the Lady Raiders held off a strong rally from Karns City late in the game to take a 46-39 win for their first title since 2013.
“Tonight, fortunately the clock ran out when it did,” said Powell. “There wasn’t a whole lot more time left. We were leaking oil.
“We practiced so hard for so long just for this game. We haven’t played for 15 days. This is what we were waiting for. The kids were really revved up. I didn’t know if we would start fast because we have all this inexperience, but the kids come out and executed exactly the way we wanted to.”
Morgan Johnson’s basket off a Marcy Schindler pass gave the Lady Raiders a 42-26 lead with 6:30 left in the game, but the Lady Gremlins’ high-scoring senior Emily Hegedus led a charge that got her team back in the game.
Hegedus, who scored 29 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the floor, was fouled as she made a basket to get the Lady Gremlins within 44-39 with 1:48. However, Hegedus missed the free throw and Karns City went scoreless the rest of the way.
It’s the program’s 12th district title overall. They beat Kane for the 2013 Class 2A title, 63-51.
Much of the success of the team’s season showed up in the win over Karns City — force turnovers, play an uptempo style and hit the boards hard.
Amazingly, the Lady Raiders amassed 43 more shots from the floor than Karns City, which helped offset a poor shooting night at 25.7 percent (19-for-74). They forced 34 Lady Gremlins turnovers compared to their own 18 and outscored Karns City, 26-14, off turnovers.
And rebounding? It was another solid effort as the Lady Raiders owned a 47-37 edge with a whopping 31 offensive rebounds.
Karns City had just 31 shots from the floor with Hegedus taking 22 of them. The Lady Gremlins went to the line a lot more and were 16-of-23 compared to Brookville’s 6-of-12 night.
Individually for the Lady Raiders, Morgan Johnson led the way with 12 points while Schindler and Lauren Hergert each scored 10 points. Hergert’s points came off the bench in addition to her five rebounds and five steals.
While most of the team didn’t shoot it well at all, the other numbers summed up the win. Schindler had eight rebounds and two steals, Johnson added five rebounds and three steals, and Lexis Hatzinikolas had 10 rebounds and two steals and Kira Powell added seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
“I feel like we executed pretty well,” said the sophomore Schindler. “We stopped Hegedus most of the game until the end. Our defense was good, we wanted to keep her out of the paint and that’s what we did. I thought the defense was the biggest part and our offensive rebounding was a lot better.”
Karns City scored the first point on a Hegedus free throw, but Brookville scored the next 12 points over a span of just two minutes to give themselves a nice cushion and it never trailed the rest of the way.
Brookville grew that lead to 25-10 with three minutes left in the second quarter and led 27-14 at halftime.
Leading 38-23 after three quarters, Brookville got two early buckets in the fourth quarter from Madison Johnson and Morgan Johnson.
That’s when Hegedus took over as she scored seven points in a row, almost all from the foul line to cut the Brookville lead to 42-33.
“I thought we (contained) her for three quarters,” said Powell. “Then she did exactly what I thought she might do, which was take the game over. What a great player, a great career. It’s the second time I’ve coached against her and it’s an honor to coach against her.”
But Hegedus couldn’t do more than get Karns City to within five.
Schindler set the final score with a pair of free throws with 21.9 seconds left, capping not only a 12-win turnaround season but a championship one at that.
“I knew we could make it here but never expected to get there,” Schindler said. “I wanted to at least get to .500 this year, but we obviously went way past that. We got into the playoffs, but maybe by junior or senior year (winning district title), but not this early.”
Another sophomore felt the same way, just harboring a simple goal to start the season.
“I wanted to win more games than last year and hopefully get into the playoffs, which we did,” said Morgan Johnson, who helped the track and field team win a team title last spring as a freshman. “It feels really good, especially with the first time doing it and beating Karns City.”
Courier-Express Sports Writer Andy Stine contributed to this story.