Storybook season ends

Montrose players walk off the court as York Catholic players celebrate following their 60-37 victory over the Lady Meteors Tuesday night in the PIAA Class AA semifinal held at Martz Hall in Pottsville. TIMES-SHAMROCK PHOTO/BUTCH COMEGYS

BY MARTY MYERS

Times-Shamrock Writer

POTTSVILLE- The big stage belonged to the team that’s been there time and time again.

York Catholic had too much experience and too much balance, halting Montrose’s storybook season and its 25-game winning streak, 60-37, in Tuesday’s girls PIAA Class AA semifinal at Martz Hall.

The Irish will be making their sixth trip in seven years to the state championship game Friday, getting at least four baskets from four starters, all the while making life very difficult for Montrose star Dallas Ely.

“We wanted to get up on them early,” York

Montrose senior Dallas Ely takes a shot over York Catholic’s Deanna Chesko on Tuesday night in Pottsville. Ely finished with nine points. TIMES-SHAMROCK PHOTO/BUTCH COMEGYS

Catholic coach Kevin Bankos said. “The first time being here is a little overwhelming and we wanted to make sure we used our experience of being in this game and I think the kids did that.”

After Ely scored off the opening tap, Montrose never led again and trailed by double figures from the first minute of the second quarter.

“They were hitting a lot of their shots in the beginning and that was frustrating for us because we couldn’t get anything to fall,” said Ely, who was held to nine points, just the second time in 29 games she didn’t score in double figures. “We kept trying to fight back but it wasn’t enough.

“We had the fans behind us. I thought the focus and heart were there. The shots just weren’t going our way this game.”

A raucous and predominantly Montrose throng – including four busloads of students – made the trip in hopes of seeing the Lady Meteors tame the big dog in Class AA. It never materialized.

“I’m not going to stand here and lie to you,” Montrose coach Al Smith said. “Experience helps. Five out of six years getting to this level, it helps a lot. It’s the first time ever for our girls. It stings.

“We just struggled offensively tonight and I think it affected us all the way around. We talk about being mentally tough, and these girls fight and they play hard.”

Montrose freshman Meghan Gilhool is consoled by head coach Al Smith as she leaves the game in the fourth quarter during their semifinal loss to York Catholic on Tuesday night in Pottsville. TIMES-SHAMROCK PHOTO/BUTCH COMEGYS

York Catholic was simply better.

Karli McFatridge started a 20-point night with a 21-footer after Ely’s opening layup. Rachel Forjan’s only bucket and a drive and scoop from Carly Marks made it 7-2.

Montrose got within a basket only twice after that. Ely’s two free throws with2:58to go cut the lead to 10-8, and Myra Lattimore, who went 8 for 11 and scored 17, scored on a putback to make it 13-10 with1:47left in the opening quarter.

It would be a long time between points for Ely, and Montrose couldn’t get the emotional spark that her acrobatic scores and long-range bombing had given them through the state playoffs when she averaged 32 points per game.

“We told our kids we thought Dallas was going to get her 20, 25 points and we were going to try to make her work hard to get them,” Bankos said.

Turns out that Deanna Chesko, who didn’t miss a shot and scored 13, stuck like glue to Ely, never letting her get untracked and forcing her to shoot from outside her substantial range.

Meteor Nicki Lewis drives through the lane at Pottsville during Montrose’s state semifinal loss to York Catholic. STAFF PHOTO/ED KING

“I just have a lot of confidence in our kids that they can make the other team play a little quicker shoot a little quicker than they are used to seeing,” Banko said. “We were going to doubleDallasevery time she either spun or somebody tried to screen for her. We wanted her to constantly have to work.”

While Montrose sputtered, McFatridge led a 12-0 run, scoring seven in a span of just over two minutes. By the time Lattimore scored off Sara Krupinski’s feed with5:43left in the half, the damage was inflicted.

“It stings because we had a couple possessions where we had four or five shots and couldn’t get it in the basket,” Smith said. “It’s been an amazing experience. The support of the community back home and the students was truly appreciated.”

Those fans tried to keep the Lady Meteors’ spirits up, but York Catholic showed their experience in another area by starting the second half with a 6-0 run to push the lead to 36-16.

“The first three minutes of the second half is where you either win the game or lose the game a lot of times,” Bankos said. “We didn’t want them to get that run. Getting off to the good start was the dagger.”

Held without a basket for a span of 28 minutes, 19 seconds, Ely finally broke the spell with a rainbow 22-footer with3:36left in the game.

By then, the outcome was long since decided, but for Ely and the rest of her team, it was the experience of a lifetime.

“I would not trade this Cinderella story for anything in the world,” Ely said. “It was amazing, being with the team, getting to travel, having everyone follow us and realizing how big a deal this was to everyone.

“Then tonight, there’s nothing to be upset about. I’m just glad I could be a part of it all.”