Special to the Mirror
PORTAGE - It may take 32 minutes to win a high school basketball game, but the Portage Lady Mustangs needed far less than that to show their dominance.
They did just that in the Art Burkett Memorial girls basketball tournament championship against Penn Cambria Saturday night in Portage's Len Chappell Gymnasium.
After taking a 19 point lead into halftime, the Mustangs finished off the Panthers by a 61-44 final.
Portage coach Lance Hudak wanted to set the tone early in his team's home gym by deploying a full-court press in the first quarter.
"It set the tone," Hudak said. "[Friday night] against Harmony, we went man the entire game and went back to a 2-3 at the end. We didn't show Penn Cambria our diamond press, back into our 1-3-1 at all last night for a purpose. So, tonight, we jumped out in it, and I think it affected them early."
But the stingy Portage defense was only half the battle for Penn Cambria in the first half. The Panthers also had to deal with a slew of 3-pointers from the Mustangs shooters, who drained six shots from beyond the arch in the first half alone, four of which came from junior guard Emily Chobany.
Chobany was named the tourney's MVP for her efforts.
"Coming into this season, we knew teams were going to try to zone us up and force us to beat them from the outside," said Hudak. "I don't know what changed from last year to this year, but we're knocking [the 3-pointers] down."
Chobany finished the evening with 26 points, 17 coming in the first half. She was followed by junior forward Olivia McCabe with 13 points, all but three of which came in the second half. McCabe and Chobany recorded 19 of Portage's 21 second-half points.
The biggest dagger for the Panthers, however, came in the second quarter, where they were outscored 21-7. It was that frame that built up a Mustang lead Penn Cambria would never threaten.
"We had to go to our bench because we were in foul trouble," said Panther coach Rodger Fair. "Our point guard and center were on the bench and we're not deep. It was a concern going into the year, and it showed there in the second quarter."
With 5-11 junior forward Tori Shingler out of the lineup for the Panthers, they had to rely heavily on the long ball. The Penn Cambria guards saw their early success from long distance wane over the course of the evening. Senior Bri Mulhurn scored 10 points in the first half, but was held to only two free-throws in the second half.
Once Portage built up its lead, the Mustangs put the game on cruise control, chewing through the fourth-quarter clock. Once time remaining dipped under four minutes, Portage used just under one minute on running only one possession, until a Penn Cambria foul allowed the Mustangs to continue milking the clock even longer.
The win gave Portage its second straight Art Burkett Memorial tournament championship.
PENN CAMBRIA (44): Capelli 0 0-0 0; Mulhern 5 4-6 16; Roberts 4 0-1 8; Krug 1 0-0 2; Vincent 1 3-4 5; Wheeler 2 9-9 13; Link 0 0-0 0; Stritmatter 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 13 16-20 44.
PORTAGE (61): Chobany 9 4-5 26; O. McCabe 6 1-2 13; Ramus 2 0-0 4; E. McCabe 1 1-2 3; Zatek 3 1-4 8; Jubina 0 0-0 0; Nolan 1 2-2 4; Wozniak 1 0-0 3; Baker 0 0-0 0; Crum 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 23 9-13 61.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria14 7 15 8 -- 44
Portage 19 21 13 8 -- 61
3-point goals: Penn Cambria 2 (Mulhern 2); Portage 6 (Chobany 4, Zatek 1, Wozniak 1).
Records: Penn Cambria (1-1); Portage (2-0).