Warriors steal one from Poland
AUSTINTOWN — West Branch senior Carly Scarpitti figured someone had to make a play.
“Being a senior, I wasn’t going to let this be our last game,” she said.
Scarpitti’s steal off a Poland inbound pass and ensuing free throw with 6.4 seconds left was the game winner in West Branch’s 44-43 victory in the Austintown Division II district championship game Saturday.
“Getting that steal was key,” West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. “Making that free throw was huge.”
Seventh-ranked West Branch advances to play Perry in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Barberton High School.
“We knew it would be a battle today,” DeShields said.
“It came down to a free throw or two.”
West Branch nearly saw a 12-point lead in the third quarter slip away. Poland rallied from a 39-31 deficit with less than five minutes to go to set the stage for Scarpitti’s heroics.
With the score tied at 43-43, West Branch missed a shot with 45 seconds left and Poland held the ball until calling a timeout with 9.4 seconds remaining.
“We talked about switching on the play,” DeShields said.
Scarpitti jumped the route for the steal and was foul driving in for a layup with 6.4 seconds left.
“It was just a bad play call on my part,” Poland coach Nick Blanch said. “They knew it was coming.”
Scarpitti made the first of two free throws to put the Warriors ahead.
“There’s probably no better game to do it in,” Scarpitti said. “It’s a surreal moment. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Grisdale rebounded the missed free throw and Scarpitti fouled her with 3.1 seconds to go, putting her at the line for a one-and-one.
“I don’t know what I was doing,” Scarpitti said.
West Branch called a timeout before the free throw.
“She’s one of the best players Poland’s ever had,” DeShields said. “I’m thinking she’s going to make them both. We’re trying to set up a play to get a shot off. We told (our team) she’s going to miss, just to build their confidence.”
Grisdale, who scored 19 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, missed and the Warriors rebounded. Poland, which had only five team fouls, was forced to foul and West Branch ran out of the clock.
“It’s the most nerve-racking game I’ve ever played in,” Scarpitti said. “Even with a 12-point lead, we knew we had to keep calm under all that pressure.”
West Branch had a balanced effort with Peyton Alazaus scoring 13 points, Anna Lippiatt 11 and Scariptti 10.
“Our team didn’t quit and I’m proud of them,” Blanch said. “We kept West Branch out on the perimeter like we wanted to. They made the shots. They were hot.”
Both teams are 22-3 on the season and DeShields made sure to praise the Poland program.
“We’re the two heavyweights in this area,” he said.