Avonworth wins game, Freedom clinches playoff spot

Thursday, February 6, 2020 | 10:45 PM

The Freedom Bulldogs came into their last section game controlling their playoff destiny. And while the game against Avonworth resulted in a 41-38 loss, Freedom (14-7, 8-6) ended the night having clinched at least a tie for fourth place in Section 1-3A due to a Neshannock loss to Mohawk.

Avonworth (15-5, 10-3), already a playoff qualifier, battled back from an 18-15 halftime deficit and endured losing their best player to fouls for a hard-fought road victory.

“It was a great road win,” said Antelopes coach Frank Halloran. “We lost Kat (Goetz) — it was the first time this season that we had to deal with her fouling out — and we got through it.”

Goetz, who entered the game averaging 17 points per game, fouled out with nearly four minutes left, and with Avonworth up by four points. Goetz scored 16 points before fouling out.

To Avonworth’s credit, it was able to maintain the lead down the stretch, due in large part to outstanding play by junior guard Harris Robinson.

Robinson matched Goetz’s team-high total of 16 points and scored 14 of those points after the halftime break.

Down three points with 11.1 seconds to play, Freedom had the ball with one final chance to score and send the game into overtime. Freedom’s Karissa Mercier, who had made two 3-point field goals earlier in the game, chose to drive the baseline instead of looking to shoot from behind the arc and was fouled.

After making the first foul shot, she tried to intentionally miss the second shot but incurred a foul shot violation for missing the rim, which ended the Bulldogs’ hopes.

Freedom’s downfall stemmed from committing 16 turnovers and missing some easy shots.

“We thought we outplayed them at different times tonight,” said Freedom coach John Kaercher. “But we just beat ourselves. Coming out of halftime, we had three opportunities to hit layups and we just didn’t convert. We make those three shots, we take a commanding lead there.”

Freedom was led by Jules Mohrbacher, who had a game-high total of 17 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Neshannock has a chance to become the fifth playoff qualifier from 1-3A if they’re able to defeat Avonworth on Saturday in a previously suspended game. That game will resume with Avonworth leading Neshannock 26-18 late in the third quarter.

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