Beaver girls capture program’s 1st WPIAL title

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Friday, March 12, 2021 | 6:48 PM


The Beaver girls basketball team could’ve packed it in during the WPIAL Class 4A championship game Friday when they trailed section rival Quaker Valley early and things weren’t going their way.

But the Bobcats had been through too much.

The senior class had suffered a WPIAL championship loss on a buzzer-beater against North Catholic as freshmen. Then, they went through the pain all over again last season when they lost in the WPIAL Class 3A finals to Montour.

“I still think about it to this day, that buzzer-beater when I was a freshman,” Beaver senior guard Emma Pavelek said.

Add a worldwide pandemic to the mix and it seemed like the deck was stacked against them. But all year long, the Bobcats continued to grind, and the hard work paid off on the biggest stage.

After falling behind by five points at the end of the first quarter, the top-seeded Bobcats (20-0) held the No. 2 Quakers (15-5) to 15 points through the rest of the game and earned the first WPIAL championship in program history with a 45-29 win.

“The sweet is never sweet without the sour, and we were the epitome of sour two of the last three years, especially in 2018,” said Beaver coach Greg Huston, who won his 200th career game earlier this season. “That sour feeling made this feel way, way sweeter.”

The Bobcats didn’t control the game from the start, though. It was actually the newcomers, Quaker Valley, who threw the first punch.

After Beaver’s Anna Blum hit a 3-pointer to open up the game, Quaker Valley’s Lily Johns answered with one of her own. The Quakers took their first lead when a Claire Kuzma layup made it 6-5, and they built it up to 14-9 by the end of the frame.

At that point, Quaker Valley coach Tom Demko said he and the players were feeling confident.

“I thought we had opportunities and some good looks near the basket and we would come up with the ball,” Demko said. “We wanted to build that lead up in the first half especially.”

It didn’t go that way for the Quakers, though. Early on in the second quarter, a pair of free throws from Pavelek, who led the Bobcats with 13 points, sparked an 18-1 run that stretched until the end of the third quarter.

A Payton List free throw tied the game at 17 and moments later, senior Madison Weiland scored two of her nine points to put the Bobcats ahead for good.

Beaver scored 14 points in the second quarter and held the Quakers scoreless in the third while scoring 14 more.

“That was just a remarkable effort by this group of girls, and they have the skill to do that, but it’s really about the heart they have,” Huston said. “They just kept grinding away and to shut out two Division I players (Corinne Washington and Bailey Garbee) like they (Quaker Valley) have, they are a great team. It’s really a credit to these guys.”

The funny part about it for the Bobcats was that they had no idea what type of run they were having while it was going on. They were just playing like they normally do.

“We knew we were playing great defense, but scoring wise, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll just go down see what I got.’ Emma was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get into the lane. Anna (Blum) was like, ‘I’ll shoot a 3,’ and Kenzie (Weiland) would get a layup,” Madison Weiland said. “We were just doing our thing, and we didn’t think about it too much. I mean we’re kind of oblivious half the time, too.”

From around the five-minute mark of the second quarter to the end of the third, the Quakers only hit one free throw. Despite being down by 13 points in their first WPIAL championship appearance, Demko said his team never felt completely out of it.

“I think there were two minutes left in the third, and even though we were cold, I felt like we just needed that one bucket to kind of lift us up,” Demko said. “Maybe we go on a little run there that we could trim it to six, seven or eight, then we have the whole fourth quarter.”

The Quakers found somewhat of a rhythm in the fourth quarter and outscored the Bobcats 11-8, but by that point, the game was decided. Garbee led the Quakers with nine points, Lily Johns added eight and Washington scored six.

After suffering two WPIAL championship losses in the past three years and battling through a pandemic that included tough zoom workouts and avoiding being contact traced, the Bobcats finally pulled through.

They couldn’t be more excited.

“The emotions were definitely high for us today,” Makenzie Weiland said. “Being able to win this was so awesome.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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