DALLAS TWP. – With head coach Kathy Healey stuck at home because of an illness, Mark Casper took on extra coaching duties for the day.
When Andrea Ruby and others spent extra time on the bench in foul trouble, Emily O’Brien’s role expanded.
Casper and O’Brien responded while Alexa Noone and Leah Hodick provided their usual leadership Jan. 6 when the Lady Patriots produced their biggest win of the season, going on the road to hand Dallas its first loss, 44-42, in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 game.
“Coach Joe Chacke was huge today,” Casper said of another PA assistant coach. Casper ran a varsity game from the sideline for the first time in his career, but has 34 years of coaching experience, including 26 leading his own eighth-grade Catholic school teams. “We’ve been doing this together. He was instrumental in saying, ‘Hey, what about this?’
“But that’s how we coach. With Kathy, we’ll both do the same thing.”
With Healey monitoring the game through text messages, the Lady Patriots never trailed, opened a 13-point lead, then held on at the end while Casper remained calm and tried to help his players do the same.
Casper encouraged the team, which has suffered some tough losses in close games, not to think about the fact that the majority of its lead had gotten away.
“I said, ‘Ladies, forget everything else that happened. This is a game that if we do the little things for the next 37 seconds and leave this huddle with confidence, we’ve got it’,” Casper said. “And, they did that.
“Credit to them.”
Pittston Area led 8-4 after one quarter.
The Lady Patriots adjusted the lineup throughout the second quarter, including going the last 3:22 of the half without starters Noone and Ruby as they sat with two fouls each. They expanded their lead during the 5:06 that O’Brien played, getting six points and three rebounds in that stretch from the junior back-up post player.
“When I’m waiting to go in, I make sure I know what’s going on, what offense we’re running, what defense we’re in and if we’re face-guarding someone,” O’Brien said. “I also try to stay calm and think about the game and how it’s going.”
Pittston Area outscored Dallas, 27-21, in the 17:13 that O’Brien played. She earned more time on the court with the game on the line by scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds.
O’Brien then came up with her third blocked shot when she stopped a Gianna Centrella drive for the potential go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds.
“We knew this was our game and we didn’t want to give it up,” said O’Brien, who hit two free throws with 1:02 left for a 43-36 lead. “We had to win, especially because coach wasn’t here.”
While Casper, who is in his sixth season as varsity assistant and JV coach, and O’Brien responded to their chances, Noone and Hodick handled their usual roles as top scorers and leaders in other capacities.
Noone went 4-for-7 on 3-pointers while scoring a team-high 15 points.
Hodick had 14 points and 13 rebounds. She had five of the team’s last seven points, going 3-for-4 from the line in the final 1:25, and corralled a in-bounds lob pass in the lane in the final second to secure the win.
Pittston Area finished with a 44-27 rebounding advantage.
The win was the only one for the Lady Patriots in four games this season that have been decided by four points or less.
“We just all talked to each other and said, ‘if we rebound and keep playing defense the way we have been, we have a really good chance at winning this game’,” Hodick said.
Mary Silinskie contributed six points and five assists to the win.
Lauren Charlton led Dallas by converting a three-point play and hitting three 3-pointers in the final 4:18. She had 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and two steals.