Ellis School girls bounce back in 2nd half, oust Springdale in WPIAL Class 2A

Friday, February 18, 2022 | 9:54 PM

Going into halftime, the Springdale girls basketball team positioned itself to break a long postseason victory drought, but Ellis School had other ideas.

After being limited to eight first-half points, the Tigers nearly tripled that number in the third quarter, scoring 21, on their way to a 37-25 comeback victory over the host Dynamos in the preliminary round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.

Ellis (7-13) advanced to play at defending WPIAL Class 2A champion and No. 2 seed Neshannock on Monday. Springdale finished 5-15.

The Tigers made just three field goals in the first half but were only down 14-8 at halftime. Kallie Kristian hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Bella Lyda had six of her team-high 12 points to spark the third-quarter rally. Katie Koeppl banked in a shot at the third-quarter buzzer to give the Tigers a 29-21 lead.

“At halftime, I told them that we were in the game and that I knew we could pull it off,” Ellis coach Dan LaGamba said. “We just needed to believe in the system that we were playing. I thought that we had been playing well, but shots just didn’t fall. I told them shots were going to fall if we kept plugging away, and they did.”

It was the rubber match after the teams split during Section 4-2A play. Ellis took the first meeting 55-27 on Jan. 25, and Springdale won the rematch 34-21 on Feb. 7.

Friday’s game had a similar trend to the first meeting, when Ellis outscored the Dynamos, 27-5, in the second quarter on its way to victory.

This time it was a 21-7 margin in the third quarter that made the difference.

Springdale was seeking its first playoff win since a 1998 preliminary-round victory over Charleroi. The Dynamos forced more than a dozen turnovers in the first half but started getting into foul trouble late in the second quarter. Dynamos coach Jerry Clark said the foul trouble made his team less aggressive defensively in the third.

“In the first half, we played our game,” Clark said. “We did the things we wanted to do, and I was very proud of them for that. In the second half, some of our more aggressive defenders got into foul trouble, and they knew we needed them, because our bench was a little thin due to some of our players being a little injured. That forced us to be a little tentative, and I think that may have been the difference in the game. Grace (Gent) and Bri (Thompson) were playing with three or four fouls each and they know we need them, so they knew they had to taper back a bit.”

Another factor in Ellis’ big third quarter was offensive rebounding that generated second, third and sometimes fourth opportunities in possessions.

“At halftime we talked about needing all four players crashing in on the glass,” LaGamba said. “Credit to the girls, because they hit the boards hard in the second half.”

The Tigers were 1 for 7 from the line in the first half and 9 for 13 in the final two quarters.

Caity Stec led the Dynamos with 12 points. The team will graduate two senior starters: Bri Thompson and Emily Wilhelm.

“I really wanted this one for our seniors,” Clark said. “Emily and Bri have played for me since the beginning. This whole program wouldn’t be where it is without them. We also had ‘Z’ (Zainub Waqas), our foreign exchange student that was a light of life for this team this year.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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