Uncharted territory

The A-C Valley girls' basketball team took the biggest step in the history of the program by downing Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 35-33 in overtime in the PIAA Class 2A second round

By Ryan S. Pugh

CLARION NEWS Sports

Editor

KITTANNING

It wasn't too long ago that a playoff win for the A-C Valley girls' basketball team was a seemingly unattainable goal but those days are well in the past.

The Falcons kept their magical 2018-19 season going and did in thrilling fashion to boot.

A-C Valley rallied from a six-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime and took an early lead in the extra frame and never trailed the rest of the way as the Falcons downed WPIAL champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) 35-33 in the second round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at Armstrong High School in Kittanning Tuesday night (March 12).

"We are making history here," A-C Valley senior Olivia Boocks said.

Boocks played a huge role in the Falcons win as she led all scorers with 18 points including a free throw with 1.5 seconds left in regulation which sent the game to overtime.

Falcons' head coach Dave Sherman is trying to make sense of how far his team has advanced.

"I told the girls, ‘This is uncharted water for us,'" A-C Valley head coach Dave Sherman said. "It's just fantastic. These girls deserve every bit of the credit for how far we have gotten. They just go out and work and work. They deserve this. They put the time and effort in and they just work so hard."

The Falcons will face District 5 champion Everett in the PIAA quarterfinals.

A-C Valley fell behind the Chargers 4-0 in the early going with OLSH's Ashley Norling depositing a pair of layups to give the Chargers a 4-0 lead with 6:52 left in the opening frame.

Norling came into the game averaging 19.7 points per game and finished the night with 17 points.

Boocks almost single-handedly put A-C Valley into the lead by draining back-to-back step-back 3-pointers from the top of the key.

The Chargers Haley Hamilton deposited a layup with 2:42 remaining in the frame to tie the game at 6-6.

Neither team would record another point the remainder of the quarter.

Kylee Eaton opened the second quarter with a put back layup to give A-C Valley an 8-6 lead.

Eaton finished with eight points and 16 rebounds.

Norling answered on the ensuing Chargers' possession when she took a pass from Maddie Hoff and drove for a layup.

After a three minute scoreless stretch for both teams, Eaton recorded another layup pushing the Falcons advantage to 10-8 with 3:54 left in the first half.

Hoff responded with a 3-pointer for OLSH to push the Chargers to 11-10 lead with 3:20 left in the half.

OLSH pushed its lead to 14-10 at halftime with Norling connecting on 1-of-2 from the charity stripe followed by a layup by Emily Schuck.

The Falcons dug into the Chargers' lead in the opening 2:15 of the third quarter as Eaton deposited a pair of layups trimming the Charger lead to 15-14.

However, OLSH grabbed the momentum back in short order with Norling draining a 3-pointer at the 4:36 mark of the frame.

Hannah Valenty was fouled on the following Charger possession and she made 1-of-2 from the stripe to swell the OLSH lead to 19-14 with 2:15 remaining in the quarter.

Eaton took a pass from Rachel Cullen on the following A-C Valley possession and deposited a layup trimming the OLSH lead to three points with 1:40 left in the frame.

But the Chargers scored the final three points of the quarter including a put back layup by Hoff as time expired in the frame. The mini-surge gave OLSH a 22-16 lead heading into the final period.

A-C Valley answered by opening the fourth quarter with an 8-3 scoring advantage to cut the Charger lead to 25-24 with five minutes remaining in regulation. Included in the Falcons' surge was a pair of baskets by Cullen which pleased Sherman.

"Rachel stepped up pretty big," Sherman said. "I told her, ‘Rachel, you've got to step up and take those shots when you are open. People aren't really coming out to guard you because they are sagging in to take away our inside game and we have those big three scorers.'"

Cullen finished with five points.

Cami McNany and Boocks each had a layup in the span.

The score stayed at 25-24 until the 3:08 mark when Hoff was fouled under the hoop. She made both free throws to push the Charger lead to three.

Hoff finished with nine points.

Boocks was fouled on the following A-C Valley possession and she made both free throws to cut the OLSH lead to one point with 2:21 remaining in regulation.

On the next A-C Valley possession, Eaton was fouled and had a chance to give the Falcons the lead but missed both free throws and the Chargers grabbed the rebound.

Eaton had a rough night at the charity stripe going 0-for-8 from the line.

The Falcons were forced to foul Norling with 23.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Norling made both free throws to push the Charger lead back to three points.

Boocks attempted an off-balance 3-pointer on the subsequent Falcon possession. Her shot was off the mark but she was fouled by Hamilton with 13.6 seconds left in regulation. Boocks missed the first free throw but made the next two to cut the Charger lead to 29-28.

The Falcons fouled Hoff immediately on the following Charger possession. Hoff missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and Eaton came down with the rebound. Eaton got the ball to Boocks who drove the length of the court and attempted a twisting, off-balance layup with 1.5 seconds left. Boocks shot bounced off the rim twice before falling harmlessly to the ground.

However, Boocks was fouled on the play. She missed the first free throw but made the second to tie the game at 29-29.

"I told them if we could keep the game close heading into the fourth quarter, I think we can win this thing," Sherman said.

OLSH head coach Don Eckerle attempted to ice Boocks by taking a time out after the first missed free throw but Boocks coolly stepped up to the line and made the second charity shot.

Eaton gained the opening tip over Norling and she shot the ball down the court toward A-C Valley's offensive zone. McNany collected the loose ball and drove for a layup to give A-C Valley a 31-29 lead with 3:54 left in overtime.

"We have been working on a tip play," Sherman said. "Teams have been taking away when Kylee has been tipping the ball straight down the court so we have a tip play where Kylee tips it toward the corner and that is the play I think we used tonight."

The Chargers came up empty on their following offensive possession and Eaton secured the rebound.

Cullen was fouled on the following A-C Valley possession and she made 1-of-2 from the line to extend the A-C Valley lead to 32-29 with 3:07 left in the extra frame.

Hoff attempted to drive for a layup on the following OLSH possession. She was fouled on the play and made both free throws to cut the A-C Valley lead to 32-31 with 2:27 left in the overtime.

Boocks was fouled on the following A-C Valley possession and she made both free throws to push the A-C Valley lead back to three with 1:35 remaining in overtime.

"We knew if we put the foul shots in and play solid defense, that was our way to win," Boocks said.

OLSH came up empty on its next possession and Eaton came down with the rebound for A-C Valley. Eaton got the ball to Boocks who got the ball up court before being fouled by Norling. Boocks made 1-of-2 from the line to push the Falcon lead to four with 54 seconds left in overtime.

The foul was Norling's fifth and she was removed from the game.

"Once she fouled out, I was feeling a little better about things," Sherman said referring to Norling's disqualification.

Hamilton was fouled on the following Charger possession and she made both free throws to cut the A-C Valley lead to two.

Eaton was fouled with 6.9 seconds left in the overtime period. Eaton missed both free throws and the Chargers' Schuck came down with the rebound. OLSH never got a shot off in the final seconds as the Falcons held on for the 35-33 win.

A-C Valley held OLSH without a field goal in the final 6:07 of regulation and all of overtime.

"We can muck up a game on defense as well as anybody," Sherman said. "We did again tonight."

For Boocks, the emotional rollercoaster of the win was a lot to take in.

"My heart is beating super-fast and I am super shaky," Boocks said immediately after the win.