By Pete Chiodo
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
What’s a six-letter word for a basketball game that includes four ties, 18 lead changes, 40 total fouls, 44 total turnovers and a final score decided by just three points?
“Oh, that was a battle,” answered Cambridge Springs’ head girls basketball coach Rick Grubbs minutes after his squad pulled off a 45-42 upset over Cochranton during an intense Region 3 matchup at the Devils’ Den on Thursday.
“We were talking about it, Gary (Egli, Cochranton’s coach) and I right before the game, that this could come right down to the wire,” said Grubbs. “And it did.”
The first meeting between these two teams was quite a different matter. Back on Dec. 16, Cochranton dominated 50-33.
On their home turf for the rematch, the Devils (8-7, 5-3 Region 3) were determined not to let that happen again.
“Teamwork. Everybody played their hearts out. Everybody did their job,” said Blue Devils senior Paige Wolfrom.
They played so well as a team, in fact, that Wolfrom said she was confident that her girls were going to pull out the win, she said, “by about halftime. Because everyone was playing together and I felt that in the second half we could do the same thing.”
That’s a surprising response, considering that Cambridge only led by two points (20-18) and there were still 16 minutes to play. And those final 16 minutes would be quite a show. But the Devils, just like Wolfrom had predicted, kept up their end of the bargain.
“They finally put four quarters together,” said Grubbs. “They played well for four quarters. We’ve played two or three in a lot of games and ended up winning or maybe losing against teams we should beat. But we played four good quarters (on Thursday).”
It was just as coach Egli had feared.
“Hopefully some lessons learned are learned the hard way,” he said. “I told the girls, ‘You never come into this gym and walk out with an easy game.’ We told them all week that (Cambridge) had extra players over us as far as interchangeable. They had fouls to give that we didn’t. Fouls would be an issue. They would pressure and push and try to get fouls called. And they had nothing to lose. We kept thinking that we’d show up, and we blew them out the last time, and that they weren’t going to do anything.
“Now they know.”
Fouls were indeed an issue. Four of Cochranton’s five starters ended the game with four or more fouls. Morghan Egli fouled out with two seconds to go. And Cambridge had three starters with four fouls.
Wolfrom, in fact, missed a good five minutes of the second half, sitting with four fouls. Up until that point, she had been Cambridge Springs’ most consistent scoring threat, racking up 14 in the first half all while playing with a dislocated finger suffered in the Conneaut game on Tuesday.
“It hurts bad” she said. “I sucked it up. This was a big one.”
With Wolfrom benched, Cambridge needed some others to pick up the slack. McKayla Zilhaver stepped up. She scored seven of her nine points in the third quarter as the Devils and the Cards traded the lead back and forth, back and forth.
Cambridge also got a boost off the bench from sophomore Amanda Taylor. She entered the game in the first quarter and immediately drove the lane for a two points. She added six more points in the second half to finish the game with eight. Among those points was an energizing second-chance jumper halfway through the fourth quarter that put Cambridge ahead 39-38.
“Amanda Taylor just came back (Thursday) from a concussion,” said Grubbs. “She’s been out for a week. But she came back and, boy, she only played five or six minutes, but they were huge. The minutes she played were huge.”
Cochranton, however, had its own hot hand in Madison Bernarding. She was striking from almost everywhere on the court.
“I was getting scared, Bernarding got hot,” said Grubbs. “She was hitting everything. I said, ‘We’ve got to find her.’”
The Cambridge defense never really did quiet Bernarding down. She hit 11 of 19 field goals, had the only two 3-pointers of the game, and finished with 25 points. She had 15 or Cochranton’s 24 points in the second half, keeping the game a close one.
The Devils’ ‘D’ did, however, silence pretty much everyone else on the Cochranton side. Other than Bernarding’s 11 field goals, the Cardinals recorded just two more from the floor. Both were notched by Kassidy Dickson, who finished the game with 10 points.
“Defense was key,” said Wolfrom.
Wolfrom re-entered the game with six minutes to go and made some crucial buckets down the stretch to help the Devils pull it out. She converted a 3-point play with 3:12 to go that pushed Cambridge into the lead for good at 42-40.
Then with 40 seconds left, she drained a turnaround layup that put the final points on the board.
Cambridge had a chance to pull away even further, but went 0-for-6 from the foul line over the final 20 seconds.
However, Cochranton (9-4, 5-2) failed to cash in at the other end and Cambridge held on for the big ‘W’.
“We got some good looks at the end,” said Egli. “We had two good looks to tie it. ... We missed shots to make it a tight game.”