NEPA Sports Nation

Smith drives ‘Paupack into playoff

By Tom Robinson,

COVINGTON TWP. – When Ella Smith was not getting to the basket, she was getting to the foul line Monday night.

Smith’s game-high 23 points were a direct result of the patience and execution Wallenpaupack showed in running its offense while defeating host North Pocono, 53-43, to force a tie for first place in the final Lackawanna League Division 2 standings.

The Lady Buckhorns used their highest-scoring output since Jan. 2 to avenge a 43-38, home-court loss to the Lady Trojans, catching them at 10-3 and forcing a playoff for the division title. That playoff is tentatively set for Friday at a site and time to be determined.

“We all wanted redemption because we weren’t happy with the way we played last time,” Smith said. “So we call came out hard. We worked together and got it done.”

Two baskets stood out during a game in which Wallenpaupack never trailed.

When Aviona Rosenthal swished a 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:11 left in the third quarter, it not only capped an 11-3 run from the game’s last tie to a 30-22 lead, but it also was the first basket by Wallenpaupack from more than three feet. To that point, the Lady Buckhorns had hit 10 layups and a close-range putback over a defender.

Wallenpaupack scored all three of its 3-pointers in the third quarter.

Between the two that Erika Badner hit, Smith pulled up the lane for a score and a 38-27 lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

It was the only score of the night for Smith that was not a layup or foul shot. She finished 7-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-12 at the line.

“I’m trying to play with more confidence,” said Smith, who was coming off a 24-point game in the team’s most impressive win of the season, 45-28, Thursday at Abington Heights. “I’m getting the ball, getting it to my teammates and knowing when to take the open shot.”

Badner had all eight of her points in an 11-5 run to the game’s biggest lead. She followed up a 3-pointer to end the third-quarter scoring with a putback 30 seconds into the fourth quarter for a 44-30 lead.

“We’ve been really working hard on running things through, being patient with the ball and letting the plays work out how they can,” Badner said. “It’s been really helping us. We’ve been playing to our strength.”

Smith says that approach is a big part of the recent surge that has lifted Wallenpaupack to No. 3 among Big School girls teams in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams.

“I think we’re at a high point,” Smith said. “We’ve been working really hard at practice and we’re finally getting the flow of things.

“We’ve really been working on our offense, running through our plays – moving the ball and running it through.”

The 19 field goals Wallenpaupack scored were all either inside the lane or beyond the arc. It finished with 11 layups made, three more shots from the middle of the lane, two other putbacks from close range and the three 3-pointers.

Grace Steffen went 3-for-3 in the first quarter, converting feeds from Badner and Paulina Schmidt, then scoring on a rebound. She finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

Schmidt had 8 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Smith led the Lady Buckhorns with three assists while Rosenthal ad three steals.

“We had a little bit of a slump there in the middle of the season,” Wallenpaupack coach Maria Miller said. “When we’re on, we’re on; when we’re not and we get in foul trouble, things can change.”

With a title shot on the line, Wallenpaupack navigated early foul trouble for Smith and Steffen with brief breaks and smart play.

“They get in foul trouble and have a tendency to do that,” Miller said, “but they’re starting to be more disciplined on the court at times in those situations because they know the importance of them being in the game – Grace with her rebounding and Ella just does a lot of things as far as scoring, rebounding, controlling the tempo of the game.”

North Pocono found its own inside game.

Freshman Celia DeCesare grabbed eight offensive rebounds on a way to a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Amaya Monacelli added 12 points and Kylie Mastillo had nine.

Wallenpaupack (16-6) is positioned to the be the second seed and have home quarterfinal and semifinal (if it advances) games in the District 2 Class 5A tournament.

North Pocono, which had taken the lead with eight wins in nine games prior to Monday, is 12-10 overall and likely to be the fifth seed in the same district tournament.


Photo Gallery: North Pocono/Wallenpaupack girls basketball photo gallery – NEPA Sports Nation.

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