EBENSBURG - The Central Cambria Lady Red Devils earned the right to fight another day in the District 6 Class AA basketball playoffs Monday night, courtesy of a 48-41 win over Richland in the first round at Bishop Carroll High School.
Three Lady Devils were in double figures, Katie Bracken, Bri Wasser and Taylor Boring. But a shot by Bracken that just beat the third-quarter buzzer was what gave Central Cambria some breathing room going into the final frame with a 31-25 lead.
"They did the right thing," Red Devils coach John Dziack said. "They worked for one shot. It just so happened to be in [Bracken's] hand. She wasn't the one I wanted to have the basketball that far away from the hoop, but she made that outside shot and it was great."
Each of Central Cambria's double-digit scorers recorded the majority of their points in only one quarter, each a different quarter than the other. Wasser scored nine of her 13 points in the second, Bracken recorded eight of her 13 in the third, and Boring notched 10 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth.
The 3-2 zone Richland used early wasn't quite what Dziack expected, but after the Devils scored on some fast-break opportunities early in the second quarter, they gained a slender lead which they would not relinquish.
"First time we played [Richland], they played a 2-3 zone," Dziack said. "So the last couple days in practice, we practiced against a 2-3. They came out and played a 3-2, and it confused them at the beginning. When we took the lead and held the ball, we forced them to come out and play man. We'd rather play against a man defense, they feel more comfortable doing that."
"We did pretty well with [the zone]," Richland coach Mike Urban said. "But once you get behind a little bit you have to go to man. We're not a real good man team. So they exposed a little bit of what we can't do."
But another thing the Rams were having trouble doing was hitting field goals in the second and third quarters. Richland only hit three buckets from the field during those two quarters, being outscored 25-15 over that span.
Though the 10th-seeded Devils were technically the visiting team against the seventh-ranked Rams, the atmosphere in Bishop Carroll was heavily slanted toward Central Cambria. The support wasn't only coming from the Red Devil faithful, but also from the Northern Cambria student section, which arrived early for the following game.
"When you play five minutes from your home floor, I imagine you'd have an advantage," Dziack said. "We seemed to have the backing of the Northern Cambria boys, which was a big thing for us during the game."
Central Cambria goes on to play second-seeded Bellwood-Antis Friday at a location yet to be determined.
CENTRAL CAMBRIA (48): King-Brothers 1 3-4 5, Wright 0 0-2 0, Bracken 6 1-4 13, Ritchey 0 0-0 0, Wasser 4 5-5 13, Boring 6 4-6 17, Hayward 0 0-0 0, Berzonsky 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 13-21 48.
RICHLAND (41): Instone 4 0-1 8, Pfeil 6 2-4 14, Gehlman 3 2-2 8, Dona 1 0-0 2, Costlow 1 4-4 6, Rozich 0 0-0 0, Callihan 0 1-2 1, Hauser 1 0-2 2, Dabbs 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 9-15 41.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Cambria 6 15 10 17 - 48
Richland 10 9 6 16 - 41
3-point field goals: Central Cambria 1 (Boring); Richland 0.
Records: Central Cambria (11-12); Richland (17-6).