WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A change in defensive strategy played a big role in Abington Heights’ 41-24 win over Scranton Prep in the District 2 Class 3A girls basketball championship game Saturday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Despite holding a 16-14 lead at the half, Lady Comets head coach Deanna Klingman decided to switch from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone due to the Classics ability to get the rim and convert at the foul line.
Abington Heights (21-5) limited Scranton Prep to 10 points in the second half, including one in the fourth quarter.
“They have very good speed and that’s one of the reasons we switched to the 2-3 zone in the second half,” Klingman said. “We had to stop their penetration and prevent them from getting to the line. I think we did a much better job keeping the ball in front of us by playing zone.”
Abington Heights’ last won a District 2 title in 2012 while playing in Class 4A, however the Lady Comets won a game in the Class 3A state playoffs in 2014 after placing third in the district.
Hannah Kowalski and Nicole Getz led the charge for the Lady Comets in the first quarter, scoring four points each, and Abington Heights led 11-6.
“I think everybody did their job really well,” Getz said. “The scoring was pretty even and people got great rebounds and steals. It was just a great team effort.
“It’s so exciting to win this game. It’s been our goal for the whole season, now we’re excited to make a good run in states.”
Scranton Prep’s Jillian Paulus scored four of her team-high 12 points in the second quarter when the Classics outscored the Comets, 8-5.
Abington Heights used a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter to open up a 27-18 lead.
“When they played zone defense in the second half, we had a problem,” Scranton Prep head coach Bob Beviglia said. “We weren’t able to get anything going to the basket and were limited to shooting from the perimeter. They made a run in the third quarter and that was the difference in the game.”
The Comets delivered the final blow in the fourth quarter when five players (Kowalski, Mariah Tulaney, Getz, Cassie Ksiazek and Alessia Brunori) scored baskets as part of a 10-0 run to go ahead 41-23 with 2:34 left in the game.
“We’ve united as a team throughout the season,” Brunori said. “I think our strong team bond really helps us.”
Abington Heights held Scranton Prep (15-11) to 6 of 47 shooting and outrebounded the Classics, 41-23.
“We knew they had some good shooters, but they also have kids who can drive to the basket so we were trying to get out on them as much as we could as pressure them,” Kowalski said. “I think our team did a really good job of controlling the boards and controlling the game.”
Both teams advance to the PIAA Class 3A tournament.
“There are a lot of underclassmen on this team who will now have had the opportunity to play in a district final and the state tournament,” Beviglia said. “As a first-year coach, it’s a good jumping off point for next year. I’m also thrilled our seniors are going to have the chance to play in a state game and we believe we can win.”
Abington Heights will play Bethlehem Catholic at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5 at Marywood University in the first round. Scranton Prep will play Greencastle-Antrim at 6:30 p.m. March 5 at Scranton High School.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.