Trailing by three points with about five minutes left in the game, State College’s Maya Bokunewicz slashed down the lane for a layup.
The ball rolled off the rim, but teammate Kelsey Love won the battle for the rebound, spun and found Bokunewicz circling back to the corner of the court. The Lady Little Lions sophomore drilled a 3-pointer and provided what turned out to be the turning point of the game.
Bokunewicz ignited an 18-5 run to close the night and lock up a 55-45 State College girls’ basketball win over Dallastown on Friday night in the PIAA Class 6A opening round at Bald Eagle Area High School.
“It’s win the game or you’re done,” Bokunewicz said. “You just have to fight really hard. We battled.”
The Lady Little Lions will face Bethel Park in Tuesday’s second round.
Bokunewicz led the way with 23 points, with 17 netted in the second half.
“She’s a heck of a player,” Dallastown coach Jay Rexroth said. “She’s a heck of a player. She made big play after big play down the stretch. She’s tough.”
Isabelle Leazier and Jessica Lingenfelter each tossed in eight points for State College.
Samantha Miller’s 18 points led Dallastown.
After Bokunewicz drilled that 3-pointer, the Lady Little Lions called a timeout and got everyone reset, but the girls could already feel the momentum swinging their way.
“That was definitely a momentum-booster and confidence-booster for me and the team,” Bokunewicz said. “That really got us going. … That really sparked us in the fourth quarter.”
Love hit a jumper from the lane a little later to give State College the lead for good, then Bokunewicz swiped the ball and raced down the floor for a layup.
It was one of seven turnovers created by State College’s defense in the fourth quarter.
“We just started to carry out the defensive plan,” Bokunewicz said. “We put a lot of pressure on their guards. We really wanted to keep that up so they would have trouble getting it into their posts.”
The Lady Little Lions followed the lead of their leading scorer and guard, who became much more aggressive with the ball in the second half.
“Our preference is balanced scoring, but we also know Maya’s a talented player,” coach Chris Leazier said. “I don’t know if it was consciously or not, but she recognized a point in the game where she needed to be more assertive. It’s something we’ve been asking Maya to do. She’s young and she’s still learning how to pick those spots, but tonight she did a brilliant job of it.”
Carrying the Lady Little Lions into the second round of the state tournament, the team is feeling momentum from the late run both in Friday’s game and in their season.
“We told the team in the locker room, ‘This team is too good not to keep playing,’” Leazier said. “After the district championship game, it would be very easy to be satisfied with that … but we told them, ‘Don’t let the district championship game be enough for you.’”