Beaver holds down Avonworth, reserves spot in girls Class 3A championship game

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | 10:28 PM

Extend the lead – somehow, some way.

That was the emphasis for Beaver coming out of halftime of Wednesday’s WPIAL Class 3A semifinal.

The Bobcats were able to do it, and they held on for a 46-37 win over Avonworth.

“When you get behind them, it’s tough,” Beaver coach Greg Huston said. “They can hold the ball and run clock. With the way they play defense and rebound, if you miss a first shot, they usually clean it up on the boards. I told the girls at halftime that we had to get a little bit of a cushion in the third quarter. I said that might be the difference between winning and losing, and I think it was.”

Top-seeded Beaver (21-3) meets Section 3 rival Mohawk (21-3), a 64-58 winner over Carlynton, in Saturday’s WPIAL title game at 11 a.m. at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

“We always felt we had the best section, and the final two standing are there,” Huston said.

The Bobcats had trouble dispatching another section rival in the Antelopes (18-7). The teams split their two meetings during Section 1 play. Beaver beat Avonworth, 50-48, on Jan. 2, and the Antelopes stopped the Bobcats’ winning streak at seven with a 27-24 win Jan. 27.

This time, the teams were tied 8-8 after the first and Beaver held a 15-13 edge at halftime. So, getting some breathing room in the third was huge for the Bobcats. Payton List provided it when she hit an NBA-range 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 26-22 advantage.

“That was a real big one,” Huston said. “I couldn’t believe they didn’t guard her. I was screaming, ‘Payton! Payton! Payton!’ Fortunately, we threw it to her, and that was as big as shot as there was.”

The cushion gave Beaver a boost it carried into the final quarter.

“That definitely makes a big difference when you’re the one in the lead,” Beaver’s Emma Pavelek said. “We were able to be patient and do what we had been working on in practice, and we felt really confident.”

Avonworth spent the rest of the game chasing the Bobcats but could not produce a run to overtake them.

“That 3-pointer was a dagger,” Avonworth coach Frank Halloran said. “I thought, if we could stay within a possession or two, any hoop or any foul becomes huge. They started to hold it a little bit, and we had to chase a little bit. That’s not what we like to do. They are in the driver’s seat when that point total gets up into three possessions.

“They are a great team. They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. We had two brutal battles with them during the regular season,” Halloran continued. “It got away from us a little in the fourth quarter and ended up being a free-throw shooting contest. (Pavelek) is not going to miss from the line, and we knew that.”

Pavelek helped seal the win in the fourth. She made 11 of 12 free throws and finished with a game-high 25 points.

“Every time I got fouled, I wasn’t thinking about the shot, per se,” she said. “I was thinking more about not letting my team down. I knew making those would be critical. I had to do it for them.”

List added 12 for the Bobcats. Kathryn Goetz led Avonworth with 18 points.

“Goetz is probably the most difficult player that we’ve faced in a long, long time. She really is unbelievable,” Huston said. “I am really proud of our girls. She got her points, but we did a good job limiting her as much as humanly possible.”

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which starts March 6.

“I am proud of the girls,” Halloran said. “The season’s not over yet. We have state playoffs to look forward to, and we’ll get ready for those.”

Listen to an archived broadcast on Trib HSSN.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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