MEADVILLE — Keeping accurate statistics in sports is always a must — especially the score.
Despite numerous times in which the factual score was up for debate during Wednesday’s district semifinal at Meadville High School, the Maplewood Tigers ended up on the right side of the scoreboard in their 60-58 victory over the Cochranton Cardinals to advance to their second straight District 10 Class 2A Championship Game on Saturday.
Although Maplewood won by a two-point margin, it really should have been a three-point victory after a scoring error in the first half awarded Cochranton an extra made free throw didn’t actually happen. The mistake was confirmed by The Herald and Meadville Tribute writers in attendance at halftime, alongside the scorers for both the Tigers and the Cardinals. Thankfully for the Tigers, the official scoring mistake didn’t cost them in the end.
As for the action on the floor is concerned, it was Sadie Thomas’ night for the Maplewood Tigers. The freshman forward had a career game in the post with a career- and game-high 28 points, making nine of her 14 shot attempts inside the arc and going 7 for 10 at the free throw line. Twenty of her points came in the first half — 14 in the second quarter only — as Thomas helped the Tigers to a 33-26 halftime advantage.
After the game, Thomas admitted that she didn’t realize the large scoring impact she had on the game, but also added that her coach told her to be “selfish” on offense.
“It’s really exciting, especially being this young,” Thomas said. “I was surprised when I looked up and saw 28 (points).”
Izzy Eimer added 11 points for Maplewood (22-2), posting a 6 for 10 night at the charity stripe, while Daphne Atkins contributed nine points off the bench that included two of the Tigers’ four made 3-pointers in the contest.
Cochranton (16-9) had three scorers in double-figures, with Jaidan Martinec pacing the Cardinals with 18 points. Lexie Moore and Cathryn Miller chipped in 11 and 10, respectively.
With Maplewood holding a seven-point advantage at the start of the second half — even though it should have been eight with the scoring mistake that benefitted Cochranton —the Cardinals came out with a full-court press on defense that helped them close the deficit.
Following an exchange of made free throws, Cochranton went on a 10-0 scoring run that included a trio of Maplewood giveaways and was capped off by one of Martinec’s five triples on the evening.
The Cardinals pulled out to a 37-34 advantage, but during that span, the totals for both teams on the scoreboard were off from the actually numbers yet again. This forced the officials and District 10 game managers to stop the game for around 10 minutes in order to figure out what the actual score was.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ momentum from their scoring run was being slowed down due to the stoppage of play, and both benches had to keep their players focused on the game being played on the floor.
“(Our girls) couldn’t do anything about it, and that’s what I was trying to tell them,” Maplewood coach Kyle Krepps said. “We have no control over that, and hopefully it gets rectified the right way. I don’t know if it ever did, and I don’t even know what the (true) final score was now.”
After play resumed, the Tigers worked back to tie the game, at 43-all, heading into the fourth quarter; keeping in mind that they should have been ahead by one point.
With 5:16 to go, Miller converted a transition lay-up and finished off the three-point play with the shot from the charity stripe to give the Cardinals what would be their final lead of the night, at 51-49.
On the next Tigers’ possession Atkins nailed the second of her pair of 3-pointers to put the Tigers back in front. After a second-chance bucket from Megan Heim, Maplewood got back-to-back lay-ups from Megan Mangus and Jordan Roser to pull ahead 55-51 at the fourth quarter media timeout.
A couple more Maplewood turnovers forced by the Cochranton press allowed the Cardinals to hang around through the final three minutes of play. Miller’s post bucket with 1:10 left on the game clock made it a three-point contest, at 60-57, in favor of the Tigers.
Maplewood had a couple of offense possessions as the final ticks passed but were unable to put the dagger through the hoop. As a result, Cochranton had the ball with 13.3 seconds left trailing by those three points.
Even though a couple of desperation 3-point attempts were missed, Martinec collected an offensive rebound in the paint, and was fouled putting up a shot with one-tenth of a second remaining. With two foul shots in hand to come and trailing by three points, Martinec made the first and then intentionally missed the second off the front of the rim in order to look for a quick rebound and put-back to tie the game.
However, Thomas was their to gather the carom for the Tigers as time expired with Maplewood ahead 60-58.
Despite the victory, Krepps was not pleased with how his team turned the ball over down the stretch, and how his Tigers played defensively on Cochranton’s scorers. He did dish out compliments to his star of the night and key player off the bench.
“I liked the play of Sadie and Daphne,” Krepps said. “Sadie led us, and there’s no question about it. She was a beast tonight. Daphne gave us huge minutes.”
Maplewood will have a championship rematch with West Middlesex on Saturday, at a site and time to be announced. The Big Reds claimed last year’s D-10 title tilt at Meadville with a 76-50 victory to earn the top seed out of the district.
West Middlesex advanced to the state championship game last season, but fell to District 6 champion Bellwood Antis, 66-57. This season, the Big Reds finished second in Region 1 behind Kennedy Catholic, and defeated Cambridge Springs on Wednesday, 85-38, to earn the right to defend their district title.
Despite the daunting task ahead, the Tigers don’t plan on backing down against a mighty foe.
“You just can’t be scared to play them, and we aren’t scared of playing anybody,” Krepps said. “We’ll just go out and give it a heck of a time and see what happens.”