The NEPA Elite Butler 15U girls team celebrated its first championship of the season Sunday morning when it won the 15U Poconos Championship of the Hoop Group’s Pennsylvania Showcase at East Stroudsburg University by defeating I-90 Elite Voss, 30-24, in the championship game.
Elizabeth Viglone scored 11 points and Mackenzie Schirg had 8 and both were part of the closing run by NEPA Elite after trailing for much of the game.
“Just getting the opportunity to play for a championship is nice, for anybody,” coach Greg Butler said. “They were excited about it.”
With players from the club’s 15U Scoblick team, which the girls practice with, staying around to cheer them on after playing in the previous game, the Butler girls prevailed in a defensive battle.
“We struggled a little offensively,” Butler said. “Our tough-nosed approach on defense and rebounding the basketball really helped us and we just sort of grinded out the win.”
NEPA Elite trailed 19-14 early in the second half.
“We were missing layups; we were missing free throws; we were taking good shots but they just weren’t falling,” Butler said. “We have some of those games sometimes, but our effort was great, so that kept us in the game.”
Isabella Rebar hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left for a 21-19 lead.
“Bella’s three got us over the hump and then we got a little bit of our offense going after that,” Butler said.
I-90 Elite tied the game one last time, but NEPA Elite closed with a 9-3 run.
Schirg had four points and Viglone three during the game-ending run.
“I’m certainly thrilled with holding any team to 24 points,” Butler said. “The coach in me wants to do some things a little better offensively, but it was a championship game and things were tight.”
That offense improved as the game and title were being decided in the second half.
Butler credited Ella Cooper with controlling the pace and Gabby Marsola with handling the ball as the offense came around.
With two victories Friday night and a forfeit win Saturday morning to finish pool play 3-0, the team was technically 4-0 for the Pennsylvania Showcase. It did, however, suffer a 42-22 loss in a Saturday morning exhibition game to pool winner from the 15U Legacy Division, New Jersey Shoreshots 15U Carman, as a replacement for the competition lost by the forfeit.
Butler was pleased to see the way his team persevered through its offensive struggles Sunday, playing harder when things were not going well, calling it a “complete 180” from Saturday’s game.
“I’m thrilled for them,” he said. “They earned it. It was hard fought.”
Rebar and Cooper are both from Valley View, Viglone is from Dallas, Schirg from Lackawanna Trail and Marsola from Wyoming Valley West.