The A-C Valley senior trio of Kylee Eaton, Olivia Boocks and Cami McNany help the Falcons advance to the next round of the PIAA championships
By Ryan S. Pugh
CLARION NEWS Sports
Senior leadership is something which shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to postseason play.
A-C Valley's trio of seniors came through in the biggest moment to keep the Falcons' 2018-19 season alive.
The A-C Valley triumvirate of Kylee Eaton, Olivia Boocks and Cami McNany were the difference makers in the Falcons' 47-44 PIAA Class 2A opening round win over Cambridge Springs at Keystone High School Friday night (March 8).
Eaton, Boocks and McNany combined for 45 of the Falcons' 47 points.
According to Eaton, the three seniors on the team have a special bond.
"Cami, Liv and me have always had this fluidity in we always seem to know where each of us is going to be on the court," Eaton said. "Knowing where everyone is going to be is a really good thing to have."
Eaton led the charge for A-C Valley totaling a game-high 20 points.
Boocks followed with 14 points while McNany bucketed 11 points.
Eaton also had 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. Boocks added eight boards and six assists to her total while McNany grabbed five boards and made two blocks. Moreover, McNany made three steals including a theft in the final minute that helped the Falcons hold off the Blue Devils.
The Falcons held a 31-26 edge on the boards including a 19-11 edge in the second half.
"We hammered the glass tonight," Sherman said. "It seemed like every time I looked up we were getting (an offensive) board and getting a second chance opportunity. We didn't get a lot of second chance points but we got a lot of second chance opportunities and that can wear a team down."
This is the second-straight year the Falcons have won in the opening round of the state playoffs. Falcons head coach Dave Sherman knows getting a win at the PIAA level is nothing to scoff at.
"I told the team, Every game you win in the PIAA playoffs is like winning a championship,'" Sherman said. "We are so undersized in school size to be in Class 2A. We have the same 20 to 30 kids who play almost every sport we have at the school and I have to give those kids credit because they play with a lot of heart."
Eaton was also proud of her team's accomplishment.
"It's a huge honor to get a win (in the PIAA playoffs) again this year," Eaton said.
A-C Valley will face WPIAL champ Our Lady of Sacred Heart tonight (March 12) at Armstrong High School in Kittanning with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Falcons jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first minute of the first quarter. Boocks dished off to Eaton for a layup then McNany made a steal on the ensuing Cambridge Springs inbounds play and drove to the bucket for a layup.
The Blue Devils responded by closing the period with a 13-4 scoring edge to take a 13-8 lead into the quarter break.
Ashton Hoover opened the Blue Devils' scoring binge with a 3-pointer at the 4:32 mark of the frame.
Hoover was Cambridge Springs' leading scorer totaling 13 points.
Abby Wescott added a pair of layups for the Blue Devils later in the span.
Boocks and Eaton teamed up for consecutive layups on the A-C Valley's first two possessions of the second period trimming the Blue Devils' lead to four points.
Boocks assisted on six of Eaton's nine baskets.
However, Brooke Myers drained a 3-pointer for the Blue Devils to push the Cambridge Springs lead to 18-12 with 6:04 left in the half.
After a long scoring drought by both teams, McNany was fouled on a layup attempt with 2:14 remaining in the period. McNany missed both free throws but Eaton made a rebound on the second miss and banked home a layup. Eaton was fouled on the play but missed the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. However, Eaton snaked her way from the foul line to under the hoop, rebounded her own miss and fired a pass out to McNany at the top of the key. McNany drained a 3-pointer to cut the Cambridge Springs lead to one point with 2:05 left in the quarter.
McNany was fouled on the following A-C Valley possession and she made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to tie the game at 18-18 with 1:41 remaining in the half.
The Falcons took the lead on their next possession when Boocks drained a 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining in the half.
The Blue Devils answered with a 6-0 scoring edge highlighted by a Hoover 3-pointer. The scoring advantage gave Cambridge Springs a 24-21 edge with 16 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Boocks was fouled in the waning seconds of the half and she drained both charity shots to pull the Falcons to within one at the break.
Boocks drained a 3-pointer at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter to give the Falcons a 26-24 lead.
Rachel Swanson responded with a 3-pointer on the Blue Devils' ensuing possession pushing Cambridge Springs back to a one-point advantage.
On the following A-C Valley possession, Andrea Meals grabbed an offensive rebound and dished off a pass to Boocks who bucketed a layup to give the Falcons the lead back. However, Swanson canned a 3-pointer on the following Cambridge Springs possession to give the Blue Devils to a 30-28 lead with 5:22 left in the quarter.
The two-point lead would be the Blue Devils' last lead of the period as the Falcons went on a 11-2 run the remainder of the frame to give A-C Valley a 39-32 lead heading into the final frame.
Eaton opened the Falcons' scoring barrage with back-to-back layups off of assists from Boocks and McNany, respectively. Eaton had an opportunity for an old-fashioned 3-pointer on her second layup but missed the free throw. Eaton grabbed the rebound of her own miss and got the ball to McNany who drained a layup.
McNany made a steal on the following Cambridge Springs possession and drove for a layup to push the A-C Valley lead to 36-30 with 2:26 remaining in the frame.
Hoover rattled home a layup to pull the Blue Devils to within four with 1:52 left in the quarter.
Boocks canned a 3-pointer on the following A-C Valley possession to push the Falcon lead to 39-32. A-C Valley would hold the seven-point lead the remainder of the frame.
Cambridge Springs responded to the Falcons third period run by opening the fourth frame 10-2 spurt to take a 42-41 lead with 4:59 left in regulation.
Julia Mailliard was fouled on the Blue Devils first possession of the period and she drained both free throws. After an empty offensive possession by the Falcons, Mailliard drove for a layup to trim the A-C Valley lead to 39-36 with 6:57 left in the game.
Mailliard finished with 12 points for the Blue Devils.
Boocks committed the foul on Mailliard which was her fourth foul of the game. Sherman decided to leave the senior guard in the game.
"I called (Olivia) over after she picked up her fourth foul and I told her, You have to be a saint the rest of the game,'" Sherman said.
Eaton slowed the Cambridge Springs run by depositing a layup on the following A-C Valley possession to push the Falcon lead back to five.
Cambridge Springs answered with a 6-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer from Hoover at the 4:57 mark. Hoover's 3-pointer vaulted the Blue Devils into a 42-41 lead.
Cambridge Springs held its lead until the 2:09 mark when Eaton was fouled and made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line tying the game at 42-42.
The score would stay tied until the 1:24 mark when Boocks dished a pass to Eaton in the lane and Eaton rattled home a layup to give A-C Valley a 44-42 lead.
On the Blue Devils' ensuing inbounds play, McNany jumped the Cambridge Springs passing lane and made a steal near midcourt. McNany was fouled after the steal and went to the line for a 1-and-1 attempt. McNany missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and Hoover grabbed the rebound for Cambridge Springs.
"She is just Johnny on the spot' a lot of times for us," Sherman said referring to McNany. "She is always in the right area at the right time."
The Blue Devils couldn't capitalize as they threw the ball out of bounds on the following possession.
The Blue Devils were forced to foul Eaton on the following A-C Valley possession. Eaton made the front end of the 1-and-1 but missed the second pushing the Falcons to a 45-42 lead.
The Blue Devils fired a pass out-of-bounds on their next possession and McNany made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe on the Falcons ensuing possession to push the A-C Valley lead to four points with 30 seconds left in the game.
The Blue Devils never mounted a serious comeback the remainder of regulation as the Falcons held on for the 47-43 win.