UPPER DARBY >> Lancaster Catholic whittled what had been a 20-point deficit earlier in the fourth quarter down to single digits with 67 seconds remaining in Wednesday night’s PIAA-4A first round contest.
But Olivia Boccella was confident she could alleviate the Lansdale Catholic girls basketball’s stress one free throw at a time.
“If I was hitting them then why not get the ball, get fouled,” the sophomore said. “I knew I could hit them.”
With leading scorer Gabby Casey having fouled out, Boccella stepped up and made a pair from the line three times down the stretch to keep the District 3 Crusaders at bay and help Lansdale Catholic secure a 66-57 victory at Bonner & Prendergast.
“With Gabby not in there and we haven’t talked about that – that needs to be talked about – we are used to looking up and seeing No. 15 next to us,” Lansdale Catholic coach Eric Gidney said. “And for her not to be an extended amount of time in the fourth quarter she (Boccella) had to step up in terms of making her free throws.
“So I think what happened is we got so caught up in our press break to try to get it to her that we weren’t looking at other options or we were just forcing it so it was just turnovers, they were just hitting threes but luckily this one here went from being the hot hand at the 3-point line early to hitting knock-down, high-pressure free throws.”
Boccella finished with a game-high 23 points – going 11-of-13 on free throws in the fourth after hitting four 3-pointers in the first half. Gabby Casey totaled 20 points while Sanyiah Littlejohn added 16 points as the battle between LC Crusaders went to the side from District 12.
Lansdale Catholic (16-7) advances to face District 11 runner-up Allentown Central Catholic, who beat District 4 runner-up Milton Area 36, 15, in the second round Saturday at a site and time to be announced.
“For a second I thought they were going to catch up,” Littlejohn said. “But that fourth quarter, it was really long cause they were getting points up and catching up a little bit so we just had to draw fouls on the board, make our foul shots cause foul shots really counted in the fourth quarter and that just won us the game basically.”
Jeriyah Johnson scored 11 of her 13 points in the fourth to pace Lancaster Catholic, which took third place in District 3. Vivian Klemmer chipped in 10 points.
Lansdale Catholic took control with a strong second quarter, capping the first half with a 14-3 run – in the final seconds pushing the ball quickly up the court after a made Lancaster Catholic free throw for a Boccella three at the buzzer and a 31-19 lead at the break.
“We’ve been practicing special situations like the past week,” Boccella said. “So it definitely helped with that situation.”
Six straight points to end the third had Lansdale Catholic leading 47-31 and in the fourth it extended the lead to as high as 20, the last time at 59-39 after two Casey free throws with 2:45 remaining.
Lansdale Catholic was still up 59-42 when Casey picked up her fifth foul at 2:29 but Lancaster Catholic’s press and the District 3 side hitting from long range made things a bit interesting late.
Six consecutive points from Johnson had Lancaster down 59-48 at 1:33 and after a Boccella foul shot 13 seconds later Madelyn Card drained a 3-pointer to make it 60-51 with 1:07 to go.
Boccella hit twice at the line at 1:06 but Autumn Lipson’s triple had the margin at eight. Another two Boccella free throws at 55.1 seconds were answered by a Lipson trey to have Lancaster Catholic down 64-57.
Boccella, however, connected on two more from the stripe at 33.8 seconds for the game’s final points.
“We didn’t want to exchange, we didn’t want to go one-three, one-three with those,” Gidney said. “I figured if we could go two-three, two-three and then looking at the clock I’m doing the math and I’m going ‘I still have a timeout left, he doesn’t have any’ I’m like I think we’re OK.”
Littlejohn provided Lansdale Catholic an early offensive jolt – her three-point play at 5:31 in the first quarter followed by a 3-pointer giving the green and gold a 9-2 lead.
“I felt like I had to make a statement for myself and make me a threat too because I had to open up other opportunities for the team, get points up for the team,” Littlejohn said. “So that was just a lot of confidence.”
Lancaster Catholic pulled to within 11-8 going into the second quarter and was down just a point at 17-16 after two Mary Bolesky free throws at 4:38.
But Casey hit a free throw 20 seconds later then knocked down a jumper to make it 20-16. Boccella buried a three before Casey’s 3-point play off a drive at 2:34 had Lansdale Catholic up 26-16.
A Johnson basket snapped the 9-0 run but Casey tracked down an errant inbounds pass and drove in for a breakaway layup, giving Lansdale Catholic back the 10-point advantage.
“We moved the ball extremely well – we were really, really patient with it,” Gidney said. “We didn’t get stubborn with the basketball and just insist on trying to score. We didn’t have that. I think we shared the ball, I didn’t pull the stats but I bet that we heavily assisted a lot of our baskets today.”
Bolesky made the second of two at the line with 5.1 seconds left before intermission only for Lansdale Catholic to answer at the buzzer – Littlejohn finding an open Boccella for a three from the right wing to make it 31-19.
A Bolesky 3-pointer had Lancaster Catholic down 33-24 in the third but Lauren Edwards hit a three then scored off a Casey assist to extend Lansdale Catholic’s lead to 15.
Lancaster cut the margin to 10 at 41-31 after a Lily Lehman basket but Lansdale collected the third’s last six points – two Casey free throws at 2:26, Littlejohn draining a three with another Casey foul shot with 39.3 seconds for a 47-31 lead.
Lansdale Catholic made just one field goal in the fourth – a Casey bucket for a 53-34 advantage – but went 17-of-19 from the line in the quarter.
Boccella hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 4:39 for a 55-35 lead. Lansdale Catholic pushed the margin to 20 two more times, the last after Casey’s two free throws made it 59-39 at 2:45.
Lancaster Catholic, however, ripped off the next nine points – Card knocking down a three before six straight from Johnson had the District 3 Crusaders trailing 59-48 at 1:33.
After a Boccella free throw at 1:17, Card hit another three to make it 60-51 with 1:07 left but Lancaster could only get as close as seven in the last minute.
PIAA Class 4A First Round
Lansdale Catholic 66, Lancaster Catholic 57
Lancaster Catholic 8 11 12 26 – 57
Lansdale Catholic 11 20 16 19 – 66
Lancaster Catholic: Jeriyah Johnson 5 3-4 13; Vivian Klemmer 5 0-0 10; Mary Bolesky 2 3-4 9; Rylee Kraft 3 1-2 7; Madelyn Card 2 0-0 6; Autumn Lipson 2 0-0 6; Lily Lehman 2 1-2 5; Carleigh Anderson 0 1-2 1; Totals 21 9-14 57.
Lansdale Catholic: Olivia Boccella 4 11-13 23; Gabby Casey 5 10-13 20; Sanyiah Littlejohn 5 3-3 16; Lauren Edwards 3 0-2 7; Totals 17 24-31 66.
3-pointers: Lancaster Catholic-Bolesky 2, Card 2, Lipson 2; Lansdale Catholic-Boccella 4, Littlejohn 3, Edwards.