NEPA Sports Nation

Classics clinch at least a tie for first

By Tom Robinson,

SCRANTON – Scranton Prep’s defense provided its usual series of stops.

Rita Collins and Bella Dennebaum made sure the Classics had plenty of chances to restart the offense.

Holding Scranton to 15 points below its average, protecting the basketball, then retrieving it on misses, five-time defending champion Scranton Prep clinched at least a tie for the Lackawanna League Division 1 girls basketball championship with a dominant effort in Thursday night’s 59-33, home-court victory.

Scranton had given Scranton Prep its closest league game of the season, 43-36, in their previous meeting, but the Lady Knights were no threat to the Classics’ 77-game Lackawanna winning streak this time around.

“Last time, a few things didn’t go our way toward the end,” Dennebaum said. “They hit a few shots. This time, we played better defensively.”

Scranton Prep scored the first seven points and the only two times Scranton made a significant dent in their lead, the Classics turned to their work on the glass to resume command.

Dennebaum grabbed a rebound and showed a soft touch on a fallaway jumper over defenders with three seconds left for a 13-7 lead after one quarter.

Collins controlled an offensive rebound that gave the offense another chance, leading to Gianna Cafarella’s drive for a 17-10 lead with 4:38 left in the half.

“That’s a big thing for us in practice,” said Collins, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. “We try to rebound the best we can and that has to be a team effort from us.

“To outrebound a team that has two strong girls in the post, that was big and gave us a lot of chances.”

Scranton Prep’s defense limited Scranton to seven points in each of the first three quarters. When the Classics ran off the last 14 points of the third quarter, their lead reached 46-21.

“I told our kids, when we talked about focus, our identity is to play great defense in the half court, which I thought we did,” Scranton Prep coach Bob Beviglia said, “and to rebound the basketball bigger than we are. I thought we did that, too.

“As much as I was happy with how well we played offensively in transition in the third quarter, it was the fact that we were getting stops at one end, then going to the other end and adding to our lead.”

The Classics outrebounded the Lady Knights, 34-23, for the game and had a 10-2 advantage in offensive rebounds through three quarters.

Collins and Dennebaum each had four of those offensive rebounds.

“She’s a tremendous offensive rebounder,” Scranton Prep coach Bob Beviglia said of Dennebaum, who has been rotating in the fifth starting spot with Jenna Hillebrand and Ashlynn Moore, depending on matchups. “She believes every ball that comes off the board is hers, which is the mentality that all great rebounders have. Rita has that mentality also.”

Dennebaum, a 5-foot-8 sophomore forward, finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

Once Scranton Prep had the ball, it held on tight. The Classics committed just four turnovers before substitutes took over the final 2:47 of the game.

Maya Jenkins had 13 points and 4 assists.

Kamryn Alers led Scranton with 10 points. Maggie O’Shea added seven points, five rebounds and three assists.

Collins, who had a three-point play to fuel the 7-0 start, had six points after another Dennebaum putback started the 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter.

“I like to drive, but rebounding is more my game, so I stay around the paint,” Dennebaum said.

Dennebaum finished 4-for-6 from the floor, 4-for-5 from inside the arc.

“The thing that I’ve been impressed with more than anything, for a sophomore that is undersized in the post, she finishes,” Beviglia said. “When she’s close to the basket, the ball goes in.”

Scranton Prep, the top-ranked Big School girls team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams, improved to 10-0 in the league and 17-2 overall. Scranton is 5-5 and 12-7.

The Classics can make their sixth straight title official with wins in any of their last three games or an Abington Heights loss.

“The league championship is a goal,” Beviglia said. “I grew up as a player, playing in the old Lackawanna South and I remember what it took to win a league championship.

“A lot of coaches will say, ‘the league doesn’t matter, it’s the district.’ I’ve never thought that. That’s why we put so much emphasis, not on the streak, but on winning league championships. I always tell kids the district seeding will take care of itself if we win games in the league and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

The Classics have wrapped up the top seed in the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.

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