By Pete Chiodo
It was a relatively slow night in the scorebook for General McLane’s Michelle Jahn.
However, when she finally did ring up a bucket — boy, was it a big one.
Jahn’s 3-pointer from the wing with 1:40 to play in the contest gave General McLane its first lead since the first quarter, shaking up a stagnant Lancers offense, and sparking the ladies from Edinboro to a 37-31 victory over Mercer in the District 10 Class AA championship game on Saturday at Edinboro University’s McComb Fieldhouse.
“That got us in the mode that we had this,” said General McLane's Katie Rodrigues. “We just had to keep pushing from there. That just opened it up.”
Rodrigues did a little fire-starting of her own. The Lancers went into the fourth quarter trailing Mercer 27-19. The senior Rodrigues then proceeded to score seven straight points for GM, including a period-opening 3-pointer, a free throw, and a clutch defensive steal/lay-up/and-one combo that made it 27-26 with 5:35 to play.
“Katie started to drive, and that really got us back into the game,” said Jahn.
What followed was a bizarre span of four minutes in which, basically, the game was being decided. For four minutes there were turnovers, there were fouls, there were scrums for the ball. What there wasn’t, however, was scoring. Shots were taken by both sides, none of them wanted to drop.
At long last, Jahn, playing with four fouls, had an open look at the basket from the left wing. She was 0-for-5 from the floor by this point. She took her shot. It swished home. McLane found itself on top 29-27 and would never trail again.
“That really shifted the momentum,” said Jahn. “It was great timing for that to happen.”
Jahn ended up scoring seven more points in the period, to give her 10 for the game. Rodrigues scored nine in the fourth to give her 19 for the game.
Together, Jahn and Rodrigues tallied 19 points in the fourth quarter, doubling their team’s total for the previous three stanzas.
Yet it wasn’t just offense that got the job done. McLane also copped an attitude on defense.
(Coach Jay) said we just needed to get up on them,” said Rodrigues. “She said this is our last chance, this is the last quarter, we have to do it now.”
In the first three quarters, Mercer struck hard from the perimeter, making 7 of 13 attempts from the 3-point arc while compiling that 27-19 lead heading into the fourth.
“In the first (three quarters) all of their field goals were 3s,” said coach Jay.
The Lady M’s Lexie Arkwright had 15 of those points herself, hitting 3 of 4 buckets from downtown while going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
The Lancers were determined to squelch that noise in the fourth quarter.
According Jay, “We had only committed two fouls going into the fourth quarter. So even to get to the 1-and-1 was going to be a struggle. I told my girls to go for steals and don’t be afraid to foul.”
Mission accomplished. Mercer didn’t see the scoreboard through the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter while GM piled up a 33-27 lead. Mercer finally broke through with 56 seconds left when Lordan Fisher collected a 1-and-1.
“I think as it got to crunch time, as we kept chipping away, I think our experience of being here last year really helped,” said Jay, whose team was upset by North East 38-36 in last year’s District 10 final. “Mercer started to look really tentative, and I think our experience from last year really helped propel us in the fourth quarter.”
The M’s wouldn’t score again until there was 10 ticks left and Arkwright drove the lane to put the final points on the board.
Both teams now move on to the state championship tournament, which begins this weekend. General McLane, now 22-3, will take on WPIAL No. 7 seed Neshannock on Friday.
Mercer, now 18-6, will face WPIAL No. 4 Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round.
Sites and times for the games will be announced later.