NEPA Sports Nation

Wire-to-wire win puts Lady Bucks in state Class 3A final in Hershey

Pictured above: Dunmore freshman forward Jackie Brown drives against Lancaster Catholic in Monday’s state semifinal. (Tim Drewes Photo)

POTTSVILLE – The Dunmore Lady Bucks grabbed the lead and never let it go Monday night.

Leading from the time Sophia Talutto nailed a jumper on the first shot, 14 seconds into the game, Dunmore moved through the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A girls basketball semifinals and on to Hershey.

With Ciera Toomey’s 13 points leading the way and Tristan Canavan overcoming foul trouble to add 11 in the second half, Dunmore defeated Lancaster Catholic, 43-37, at Martz Hall in Pottsville.

The win sends Dunmore (26-3) to its fourth state championship game, Thursday night against District 6 champion River Valley (29-2) at The Giant Center.

Lancaster Catholic came in as the No. 1 Class 3A team in the state, according to

The second-ranked Lady Bucks proved ready for their showdown, repeatedly opening leads, then turning back the Lady Crusaders’ comeback attempts.

Dunmore built its advantage into double figures in all four quarters and once Amanda Dempsey made it 4-0 just 1:31 into the game, Lancaster Catholic had a shot at tying the game just once the rest of the way – an airball on a 3-point attempt in the last minute of the third quarter.

The Lady Bucks calmly handled the big-game setting, committing just one first-half turnover against a team accustomed to getting points off its pressure.

“I thought we did well handling the pressure,” said Talutto, who contributed eight points, five assists, three blocked shots and two steals to the victory. “I knew coming into the game that was a big responsibility for me as the point guard and, as a team, I think we all protected the ball really well.”

Dunmore did not force the ball to Toomey and when she received it in a crowd, she was ready to find an open teammate.

The 6-foot-4 North Carolina commit got most of her offense on rebounds, converting four of her six on the offensive end into baskets.

Toomey finished 6-for-11 from the floor with 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots to go along with her 13 points.

She had plenty of support from younger teammates.

“Last year, as a freshman, I didn’t play a lot in the really big games, except for a couple of them,” Talutto said, “But tonight, for some reason, I felt relaxed and confident right from the beginning of the game, like I have been doing it my whole life.”

When Canavan sat the rest of the half after two early fouls, freshman Jackie Brown, a starter for most of the season, came in and provided four points and four rebounds.

Brown’s drive closed the scoring on a 12-2 first quarter. Her basket off a high-low feed from Toomey started a 7-0 run to the game’s biggest lead, 21-10, with three minutes left in the half.

“I knew T was in foul trouble and I felt like I had to step up for the team,” Brown said.

Brown and the Lady Bucks fed off the energy of the crowd.

“It gives us all so much more motivation to do well,” Brown said. “When we have a student section like that and a crowd that is cheering Dunmore and Lady Bucks, its just great.”

And, each time the Lancaster Catholic faithful got fired up as a comeback seemed to be building momentum, Dunmore, playing under first-year head coach Carrie Toomey, calmly regained control.

“The stress is on the court,” coach Toomey said, explaining her approach from the sideline. “I always liked playing for a coach that made me more calm when I came over to the sideline, not one that made me more nervous or stressed about the situation that was happening.”

Dunmore navigated an 0-for-13 night from 3-point range by hitting more than half its shots from inside the arc, holding a 36-32 rebounding advantage, committing fewer turnovers and also defending Lancaster Catholic well.

The Lady Crusaders were 4-for-23 (17.3 percent) from 3-point range and 14-for-43 (32.6 percent) overall.

Mary Bolesky hit three of the 3-pointers while leading Lancaster Catholic with 13 points and 6 rebounds.

Rylee Kraft added 12 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists.

Dunmore made sure it took Lancaster Catholic awhile to get started, holding it scoreless for 3:50 and to just one basket in the first 9:12.

Talutto followed up her opening jumper with a drive for a 6-0 lead and the first Lancaster Catholic timeout only 1:53 into the game.

Toomey putbacks put the lead at 8-0 and 10-2 in the first quarter, then 14-4 in the second.

Carleigh Anderson and Bolesky hit 3-pointers 46 seconds apart to start the first comeback attempt, pulling the Lady Crusaders within 14-10 with 5:22 left in the half.

Dunmore answered with Brown’s second basket, a Toomey three-point play off a pick-and-roll feed from Talutto and Talutto’s backcourt steal and layup for the 21-10 lead.

The Lady Bucks did not score for the next 3:31, but all the Lady Crusaders could manage was the last four points of the half.

Canavan scored off the press break for a 23-14 lead and added two more baskets helped eventually rebuild the 10-point lead.

Lancaster Catholic put together its own 7-0 run on two Anderson drives and a Bolesky 3-pointer to make it 29-26 with 1:08 left in the third.

When the only shot at a tie went awry, Talutto restored order on a runner in the lane with 18 seconds left in the quarter.

Each team managed just one basket in the first four minutes of the quarter with Dunmore’s being part of a three-point play by Canavan.

Canavan scored again and Toomey added her last putback for a 38-28 lead with 3:38 left.

Lancaster Catholic closed within 41-35 with 46 seconds left and 42-37 with 28.7 remaining.

Dempsey made one of two free throws for the final margin and, when she missed two shots with 13.2 seconds left, Canavan was there for the rebound, allowing Dunmore to dribble out the remaining time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was created primarily from the on-site reporting of Paul Gerrity.


Photo Gallery: Dunmore/Lancaster Catholic girls basketball photo gallery – NEPA Sports Nation.

Next opponent: UP NEXT: River Valley to face Dunmore in 3A state title game – NEPA Sports Nation.

Playoff history: Lady Bucks have 45 state wins – NEPA Sports Nation.

Quarterfinal game story: Toomey-Canavan combination dominates inside for Lady Bucks – NEPA Sports Nation.

Second-round game story: Lady Bucks romp past Imhotep – NEPA Sports Nation.

First-round recap: 3A GIRLS: Lake-Lehman, Dunmore romp in first round of state play – NEPA Sports Nation.

District championship: Lady Bucks close with 25-1 burst – NEPA Sports Nation.

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