Starting point guard Emily Webb sat on the bench, wearing a hefty brace after tearing her ACL eight nights earlier. A few seats away sat fellow starting guard Chloe Eisenhuth. She had fouled out early in the fourth quarter Saturday against Montoursville.
At that point, the Defenders were down two starters. They had two freshmen on the floor, including one who had barely played varsity all season. But they also had Steph Shamburg.
They were in good shape.
Steph Shamburg and Warrior Run open the PIAA playoffs on Friday vs. Dunmore in Scranton.
Shamburg's scholastic career is filled with outstanding performances. Saturday, she delivered her best. Shamburg scored 24 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and added seven steals while willing Warrior Run to a 43-37 state-qualifying win over Montoursville.
"I knew it could be my last game. It's either the last game or we continue on and I didn't want it to be my last game," Shamburg said. "Going into halftime I knew I had to step it up. I had to help my team and fill my captain's role. I had to do something to make it happen."
Montoursville led 28-18 nearly midway through the third quarter before Shamburg took over. She scored 18 points over the game's final 12 minutes, dominated the boards and played outstanding defense as Warrior Run clinched its first state tournament berth in two decades. Saturday, the senior has a chance to extend her career when Warrior Run (21-6) plays District 2 champion Dunmore.
"She was big-time," said forward Abby Fisher, who also played a strong game. "She definitely carried the team for the most part. I would give her all the credit."
Montoursville held Shamburg to zero first-quarter points and just one shot. The four-year starting forward started coming alive in the second quarter when she scored six points but it was when the pressure was highest that she was really great. Shamburg hit 6 of 9 second-half shots and 6 straight foul shots while going 10 for 10 at the line.
Shamburg put Warrior Run ahead to stay with two minutes remaining and it seemed fitting that she grabbed the rebound and hit the game-clinching foul shots in the game's final seconds. She has been there throughout, Warrior Run's upward climb the last four years and Shamburg was the one who helped it achieve a huge breakthrough.
"In the first quarter I was like uh-oh but then she started posting strong and getting to the bucket," Warrior Run coach Jon Weaver said. "I said Steph you have to go to the bucket if we're going to win this game. You have to shoot foul shots. If you don't shoot a foul shot, we don't have a prayer. She started going to the bucket, got to the line and it was big for us."
If one wanted to capture Shamburg's career in one game this was it. She scored, she rebounded, she passed well and she defended well. More importantly, she led and would not let her team lose. That is who she is and that is a big reason this program has come so far.
When Weaver took over six years ago, Warrior Run was coming off a winless season and had no playoff wins in the 21st century. In year two, the Defenders were back in the playoffs but it was when Shamburg arrived a year later that they really started taking off. Warrior Run won its first playoff game Shamburg's sophomore year and has increased its win total every year since.
This is the year, however, that Warrior Run has taken a huge leap forward. It reached the district semifinals for the first time and then earned its state berth the hard way, overcoming adversity and a deficit. Shamburg has been so pivotal to the climb and she was the one who helped it reach a new height Saturday.
"We got better as we went on from my freshman year and we just kept increasing our record and now we finally got that push that we needed to get to states," Shamburg said. "It's great we're going as a team and everybody contributed."
Shamburg scored her 1,000th career point last January and became the program's all-time leading scorer last month. She is averaging 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game while also being among team leaders in steals, assists and blocks.
The primary focus of nearly every opponent Warrior Run has played the last three years, Shamburg takes a beating in the paint but keeps coming back, keeps fighting on. She has become a perfect reflection for the team on which she plays.
The numbers are nice but it is the work she has put in, the performances she has delivered, that have really set Shamburg apart. Those are the things that have made Shamburg one of Warrior Run's all-time greatest players.
"We have gotten this out of her a lot. To do what she's done drawing double and triple teams everywhere is just a great job," Weaver said. "This is Steph in a nutshell. She has come up big for us many times and (Saturday) was the biggest yet to get us to move on."