By STEVE WILAJ
The teams went about it in different ways but regardless, following Thursday’s action at Mineral Ridge High School, United (23-2) will meet Champion (15-9) in the Division III girls district final on Saturday at 2 p.m.
United’s fashion of reaching the championship was to dominate Girard with an all-around team performance. In defeating the Indians, 50-29, the Eagles were led by Emily Zehentbauer’s 17 points, Tara Grey’s 10 and Courtney Hydrick’s nine.
“It was the goal all summer long and something that we were preparing for throughout the season and up to this point,” United coach Sam Mathias said of reaching the final. “We now know we’re one step away.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Eagles who led just 12-8 after the first quarter. But the Eagles used a 17-6 second-quarter advantage to gain a sizable lead that Girard (18-7) could not overcome. Zehentbauer scored seven points in the quarter and Mackenzie Gatchel added five of her seven points.
“After the first quarter and after we found out what they were going to do, I thought the girls did an amazing job down low,” Mathias said. “Our post players stayed straight up. Our guards got down there and were digging out the ball.”
United held the Indians’ offense to single-digit scoring in each quarter. Mathias said his team had to slow down Girard forward Bree Bishop to be successful. Bishop was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field.
Shymara Dykes led the Indians — who shot 27 percent from the field — with seven points.
“They put a lot of pressure on you. That’s what they do,” Girard coach Andy Saxon said. “But we had to make shots. When you play a good team like that, you have to make your shots. We were horrible from the free throw line and then we missed some easy shots inside.”
In the first game, Champion used a strong performance by Mackenzie Kiser to defeat Pymatuming Valley (21-3), 51-49. The win avenged a 41-36 overtime loss to the Lakers in January.
The Flashes — who were paced by Kiser’s 24 points and 17 rebounds before she fouled out — were barely able to hang on. PV’s Geena Gabriel had a potential game-tying shot clank off the front rim as time expired.
“Early on in the game we were trying to force the ball in to Kiser,” Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. “Then we hit a couple of jump shots, made some nice plays and it came together.”