Berks Catholic halted in 4A ti­tle game

The Hamburg Area Item - - SPORTS - By Jeff De­wees For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

HER­SHEY » Berks Catholic’s dream of a state cham­pi­onship came up one step shy, to an old fa­mil­iar foe.

The Saints hung tough with Lan­caster Catholic for a half on Wed­nes­day be­fore fad­ing af­ter the break, suf­fer­ing a 51-36 de­feat at the hands of the un­beaten Cru­saders in the PIAA 4A cham­pi­onship game at Gi­ant Cen­ter.

The state ti­tle clash was a reprise of the District 3 gold medal game on the same floor nearly a month ear­lier. Lan­caster Catholic won that en­counter 58-47 on March 1 to claim district gold.

Berks Catholic (25-6) was play­ing in its first state cham­pi­onship game Wed­nes­day as that en­tity. BC head coach Bob Birm­ing­ham had led Holy Name to the 1993 2A cham­pi­onship game, a 57-55 loss to Cran­berry, in a con­test held at Her­shey­park Arena across the lot from and nearly a decade be­fore Gi­ant Cen­ter was built. Holy Name merged with Read­ing Cen­tral Catholic in 2011 to form Berks Catholic.

“It’s like I told them in the locker room: ‘you were in the state cham­pi­onship’. A cou­ple of weeks, months or years down the line, they’ll re­al­ize how spe­cial this was,” Birm­ing­ham said. “It’s a great group. we haven’t had a sin­gle is­sue all year with any­body on this team. They were a plea­sure to coach and they wanted to be with each other. They’re go­ing to have friend­ships that will last for a life­time be­cause of this and the way they bonded this year.”

Lan­caster Catholic com­pleted a per­fect sea­son, a 32-0 run past all com­pe­ti­tion, to garner its first state gold since 1996. The re­match with BC was a dif­fer­ent beast than the D-3 ti­tle game – in that one, the Cru­saders trailed en­ter­ing the fourth quar­ter be­fore ral­ly­ing. This had none of that high drama.

Shortly af­ter Molly Dun­can’s buzzer-beat­ing half­court heave found twine for BC to give the Saints an 1110 lead af­ter one, the Cru­saders es­tab­lished con­trol of the con­test with a 10-0 run – the largest for ei­ther club – to forge ahead 21-13 and es­tab­lish a cush­ion that held up some­what com­fort­ably for the rest of the game.

Berks Catholic needed to reignite the engines to start the third quar­ter af­ter de­part­ing the floor down 29-21 at half­time, but it never hap­pened. The Saints did not score for the first 3:29 of the sec­ond half; when Abbey Gaffney ended that dry spell with a layup, the Cru­saders re­sponded with an 8-0 run to push it to 40-26.

“I thought we got some good shots, too,” Birm­ing­ham said of the dry spell open­ing the sec­ond half. “First two pos­ses­sions we got back­door cuts and we fum­bled chances. It was huge, be­cause that can’t hap­pen in the state cham­pi­onship against a team that’s 31-0.”

Lan­caster Catholic closed its per­fect cam­paign with a game be­fit­ting its suf­fo­cat­ing MO. Ev­ery time BC got a nudge to­ward life, the Cru­saders snuffed it out.

Kiki Jef­fer­son was jet fuel for Lan­caster Catholic. The po­tent ju­nior for­ward scored 24 of her club’s 51 points – no team­mate scored more than eight (Za­niah Banks) – and proved to be ev­ery bit the matchup headache she was down the stretch in that March 1 en­counter. Dun­can drew the as­sign­ment for BC and per­formed valiantly, at nearly five inches shorter, be­fore run­ning low on gas to­ward the end.

De­jah Ter­rell, Jef­fer­son’s style mate in stature and game, strug­gled a bit dur­ing the first half – at one point with four points booked op­po­site two fouls. Ter­rell ended her high school ca­reer with 12 points, sec­ond be­hind Gaffney’s team-high 14.

Ter­rell was up­beat and ap­pre­cia­tive of the ex­pe­ri­ence de­spite not com­ing away with the cham­pi­onship.

“I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber all the good times and bad times,” she said, “but most of all I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber the bond we cre­ated as a team.

“Ev­ery game win or lose was a step closer to the end­ing,” Ter­rell said. “It kind of hurt at the end when I was get­ting subbed out be­cause I knew this was the end. But it also felt good be­cause we were in Her­shey at the (Gi­ant) Cen­ter in the state fi­nals. There are 706 girls teams and we were one of the fi­nal 12 . ... Whether it’s bronze, sil­ver or gold, it’s a tro­phy and that means we did some­thing right.”

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