Raiders escape sectional scare

GREENFORD – The South Range Raiders held off a ferocious comeback by the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals Wednesday night in a Div. III sectional opener by a 45-39 count in overtime.

The second-seeded Raiders improve to 19-3 and advance to host Girard at 4 p.m. Saturday. The seventh-seeded Cardinals finish at 10-11.

“We kind of put our head down for a second then we realized that hey we still have time. We just got to play hard defense. Try to get it back and try to win it,” Raiders sophomore guard Ashley Sharp said. “That’s what we do, we just keep playing hard till the last minute.”

The Raiders led by as much as 12 points with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter before the Cardinals made a tremendous fourth quarter attack to tie the contest up at 39 with 1:07 remaining in the game. The Raiders had an opportunity to win the game with 10 seconds remaining, but an over-and-back call following a time out gave the Cardinals one last chance to win in heroic fashion. However, the Cardinals committed one of their 21 turnovers just before the buzzer, sending the game into the extra session.

“We call it a sideline quick, we want Starla (Sharp) to come and get it,” South Range coach Tony Matisi said concerning the over-and-back call. “We want a two man game with her and Ashley. Mooney sagged off of it, so we couldn’t get the two man game we wanted. So we just wanted to kick it into the back court, but they lined up too close.”

Ashley Sharp made what essentially turned into the game winning play in overtime when she came up with a steal and a free throw that gave the Raiders a 41-39 lead with three minutes remaining. With the Raiders leading by a point at 40-39, the Cardinals leading scorer, Jaclyn Yankle went up for a layup inside the paint, only to have Sharp steal the ball and drive the court. She was fouled and hit one of two charity throws. Sharp led the Raiders with 15 points on the night.

“I knew they were trying to get it to No. 23 (Yankle), so I was just trying to be in to help most of all. I saw her turn around so I kind of slipped in there and grabbed it and went for it. Nothing really special,” Sharp said.

After a see-saw first quarter, the Raiders defense triggered the Cardinals into a lot of problems as they began to commit turnovers, allowing the Raiders to build a 20-11 halftime advantage following a basket by Lynnie Ritter at the buzzer. The two teams combined for 21 first half fouls.

“I thought it was two different games,” Matisi said. “First half and second half. Maybe the girls did settle in to see how they were calling them and backed off a little bit. I thought it was too tightly called in the first half. That put us on our heels a little bit.”

The Raiders continued to pull ahead in the second half, opening with a 9-6 run going up by the game largest margin of 12-points when the Raiders’ Morgan Czopur connected on a jumper. But that is when Yankle and the Cardinals began to chip away at the Raiders lead.

Yankle scored seven of her team leading 17 points in the final eight and a half minutes of regulation as they closed the third quarter outscoring the Raiders 7-0. She also grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Cardinals.

In the final minutes of regulation, the Cardinals Renee Santisi came off the bench to give the Cardinals a much needed boost as she hit a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, and then hit a basket with just 1:07 remaining to knot the game at 39-39. The Cardinals outpaced the Raiders in the last stanza by a 15-10 margin.

“They were a little more aggressive than us, especially in the first half,” Cardinals head coach William Ritter said. “They are a very well coached team. Tony Matisi is one of the best in the area. They just do a really nice job, a really nice job.”

“It feels good,” Matisi said. “We knew at the draw that it was going to be a tough first round game. I never take the bye, I don’t like to get the girls out of a routine, on a 10-day layoff, but we knew at the draw that they had us beat at their place a month ago. We got lucky and made some steals at the end and it sort of played out how we thought tonight.”

Game notes

The regular season game Matisi was referring to was a 50-47 win for the Raiders.

CARDINAL MOONEY: 6-6-13-15-0-39

SOUTH RANGE: 5-15-9-10-6-45

CARDINAL MOONEY SCORING: Maggie Mohanan 1-1-6, Jamie DiDomenico 2-5-5, Jami DiFabio 1-1-3, Jaclyn Yankle 6-4-17, Sam Ellis 0-0-0, Hannah Welsh 0-0-0, Renee Santisi 3-1-8. TEAM TOTALS: 13, 12-17: 39.

SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Starla Sharp 3-1-7, Ashley Sharp 5-4-15, Sierra Petrella 1-4-6, Morgan Czopur 2-3-7, Jordan Youngs 1-1-3, Sara Durr 2-1-5, Kendall Syms 0-0-0, Marketta Gabriel 0-0-0, Lynnie Ritter 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 14-30: 45

Three-point goals: Cardinal Mooney 2 (Yankle, Santisi), South Range 1 (Ashley Sharp).