Bellwood-Antis punches ticket to Hershey


Jake Miller

The Lady Blue Devils and their fans go wild after the closing seconds tick off of B-A’s 41-36 victory over Blairsville.

Colin McCaulley, Sports Writer

The Lady Blue Devils basketball team advanced past Blairsville last night by a score of 41-36, stamping their ticket to Hershey for the PIAA 2A state championship game against West Catholic High School, which slipped past Penns Manor in overtime.

The game will take place on Thursday at noon. There will be no school at B-A that day.

Our focus the entire postseason has been more about us than the other team.  We will not change that now.

— Coach Swaney

“(We will) watch some film, do some shooting and talk about our opponent a little,” said B-A coach Jim Swaney.  “Our focus the entire postseason has been more about us than the other team.  We will not change that now.”

Alli Campbell, recently named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, led the Devils with a double-double on 23 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. Sakeria Haralson had a double-double of her own with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Riley D’Angelo was the only other player that scored with 5 points. Campbell’s numbers have come to be expected; the games of Haralson and D’Angelo were vital, Coach Swaney said.

“Sakeria had an outstanding game with a double double.  Riley D’Angelo is the best defender in Central PA,” Coach Swaney said. “She proves it every game.  Emilie Leidig got us two big steals in the fourth and played outstanding defense on Cat Martin.  Alli Campbell was as dominating as ever.”

Bellwood-Antis only attempted 39 shots, the fewest it has taken all season. The game started off with six consecutive B-A points coming from Campbell, which sent the largely Bellwood-Antis crowd at DeGol Arena on the campus of St. Francis University into an absolute frenzy. B-A would command a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter but a second quarter scoring drought would let the Bobcats take a two point lead by the end of the half. Campbell and Haralson were the only Devils to score in the entire first half.

In the fourth quarter D’Angelo hit a go ahead three , and then the Lady Devils put the clamps on defensively. A Rena Enterline three-point play would be the only three points scored in the fourth quarter for Blairsville, while B-A continued to score.

“Our pressure on the ball really helped us this game,” said senior Tina Hollen. “We were able to speed their game up for us to get more possessions.”

The last minutes of the game turned into B-A holding the ball and being sent to the line to put the Devils up too much for the Bobcats to rally. The gym erupted into celebration as time ran out.

Coach Swaney said his team’s fourth-quarter defense showed just how much the Lady Devils wanted to go to Hershey. B-A’s girls have only made one other trip to the state finals, and that was in 1990.

“Our defensive effort in the fourth quarter was outstanding.  Everyone played with such effort and refuse to lose attitude.  Our effort on Rena Enterline was great in the second half,” he said.

For Hollen, the team’s only senior, it’s a sweet moment after missing out on District and regional titles her entire career, including this year’s District 6 2A title, which went to Bishop McCort after Blairsville knocked out B-A in the semis.

“Last year I was devastated when we lost the ICC championship and the District championship. We knew we had to do it,” Hollen said. “We had so many people counting on us. It wasn’t just for us. It was for our community, and even more so for our coaches.”

It will be a quick turnaround with little time to prepare for the Burrs, who come into the championship game with 12 losses out of 28 games.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Sakeria. “If we want to win a state championship, we’ve just got to get it done.”