Kelleher leads Dragons in district semifinals
SUNBURY — Moments after hitting a tough mid-range baseline jumper, Lewisburg guard Grace Kelleher rummaged through a sea of players looking for her defensive assignment. Once she found her, there was no escape for the Danville guard. The other eight players cleared out, leaving Kelleher on an island.
Kelleher forced the ball handler back and forth, advancing just inches at a time, but before crossing half court, Kelleher forced a 10-second call and a turnover. She clapped her hands together and let out a big scream.
It was that type of defensive intensity and effort that pushed Lewisburg past Danville, 38-30, in the District 4 Class AAAA semifinals on Wednesday at Shikellamy High School.
With the win, Lewisburg (22-4) advances to its second district championship in the last four years and will play Mifflinburg in the final. The season series is tied, 1-1.
Kelleher scored a game-high 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and added three steals, Bethany Rippon scored 13 points with three 3-pointers and Lewisburg used another stifling defensive effort as it held an opponent to 30 points or fewer for the 13th time this season. In three meetings this season, Lewisburg held Danville to just 82 points.
“These girls pride themselves on their defense. We try to hound the ball, make things difficult, contest shots and rebound,” Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. “Danville has some nice offensive players but I thought, especially in the second half, we took some of those girls out of the game. They play with a lot of heart and that’s what it takes on the defensive side.”
Kelleher, Rippon, Niki Cho (three rebounds, three assists, steal) and Megan O’Hara (six rebounds, two steals) all hounded ball handlers on the perimeter, making passing lanes non-existent and helped force 19 turnovers. Waiting inside was 6-foot center Emily Sholly, who made life equally difficult in the paint and at the rim. Sholly scored four points, grabbed eight boards, blocked five shots and affected countless others.
“That’s our job as guards, we have to pressure the other guards to make it tough to get inside,” Kelleher said. “Emily does a great job if they do get inside, blocking shots. Every time the ball gets in there, I know Emily is going to do a great job contesting shots.”
Danville had just 18 points through three quarters as Lewisburg built an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter. Struggling to hit shots in the first half, the Green Dragons used an 8-0 run for a 22-11 third-quarter lead. In the first five minutes of the third, Lewisburg used a 12-2 run to gain a 13-point edge, before Danville closed on a 5-0 run.
Danville got the deficit down to six early in the fourth quarter and looked to get within four on a fastbreak layup, but Sholly’s block prevented it. The Green Dragons held a two-possession lead the rest of the game. They even held the ball for about a two-minute span late and the possession ended with two Rippon free throws to make it an eight-point game with 1:23 to go. Lewisburg hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final 90 seconds, including Kelleher going 5-for-6 in the final 31 seconds to ice the game.
“We knew coming into the season, we wanted to put ourselves in a situation where we were going to play in the district championship game,” Kelleher said. “Anything can happen and we’re really ready to go.”
Linae Williams 3 0-3 6, Elaina Klinger 0 0-0 0, Corrina Petrus 1 0-0 2, Clara Coombe 1 0-0 2, Bethany Hileman 4 2-2 12, Emily Heath 1 0-0 2, Samantha Chillis 0 6-7 6. Totals 10 8-12 30.
Grace Kelleher 4 8-11 17, Emily Sholly 2 0-0 4, Bethany Rippon 3 4-8 13, Niki Cho 0 0-0 0, Megan O’Hara 1 0-0 2, Jamie Fedorjaka 0 0-0 0, Erin Hilkert 1 0-0 2, Allie Reed 0 0-0 0, Cassie West 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 12-19 38.
Danville 7 4 7 12–30
Lewisburg 9 5 12 12–38
3-point goals: Danville 2 (Hileman 2); Lewisburg 4 (Rippon 3, Kelleher 1)
Records: Lewisburg (22-4), Danville (16-8).