CRESSON, Pa. — With four personal fouls, sophomore Alex Chobany spent more time on the bench at Portage Area High School than she or her coach Lance Hudak would have preferred Friday night.
But when it was time for Chobany to re-enter the District 6 Class 1A Women’s Basketball Championship game against top seed Williamsburg, she was ready.
“I think I had a lot of energy,” Chobany said after scoring 10 of his 12 points in the final 4 minutes and 10 seconds of a Mustangs 52-47 win at Mount Aloysius College. “I just wanted to get back on the pitch and help my team. They were doing so well and I just wanted to get back into action.
Chobany also had a huge rebound/return field goal and went 4 of 6 from the free throw line as Portage sealed its second District 6 crown in three seasons. She had eight points in the 1:48 final.
“You put your best defenders on their best players. Alex and Cami (Burkett) got that call tonight and it turned into fouls,” Hudak said. “Alex has it. She had to sit down. She came when I called her in the fourth quarter.
“I said, ‘Alex, it’s your time.’ She immediately made a difference,” added Hudak.
“She is so quick with her hands. She knows where to go to fly low. Alex and Cami are faster than any girl they play against.
Portage (21-5) will face the fifth-place team from District 7 on Wednesday in the PIAA Class 1A tournament. Williamsburg (21-6) will face the fourth-place team from District 9.
The second-seeded Mustangs also completed a two-on-two effort in the hoops district title games.
The Portage boys beat Penns Manor for the Class 2A crown on Thursday.
“It means so much,” said Portage sophomore Brooke Bednarski, who had 14 points, including 12 in the middle of the quarters when the Mustangs forged a comeback. “It’s amazing. I can’t believe we did it.
Williamsburg led 13-7 after the first quarter as the Blue Pirates used a size advantage to convert lobs and rebound baskets inside.
Portage had a 13-9 advantage in the second period to shoot within 22-20 at halftime.
A 17-7 third quarter push gave the Mustangs a 37-29 lead.
“I think we just locked in the defense,” Bednarski said. “We just started playing better.
“We boxed more and jumped for the rebounds and we didn’t let them in. We started playing tighter, and I think that caused some people to get in the head and that kind of helped to turn the game on our side.”
Portage looked to be in good shape after Sydni Sossong’s 3-pointer made it 41-31 with 6:39 left in the final quarter. Sossong finished with 10 points.
But Williamsburg went on a 13-2 run to lead 44-43 after Kendel Norris’ basket at 2:02.
Chobany had a field goal at 1:48 to put one up for Portage, then Burkett stole and went for a layup attempt. Chobany’s rebound and field goal on the play gave the Mustangs a 47-44 advantage with 1:26 to go.
In the final minute, Chobany had four free throws and Burkett hit one to seal the victory.
“We arrived with a lot of energy. We knew we were the underdogs,” Chobany said. “We just came in wanting to win this and play our best defense and our best game.”
Williamsburg second Ayla Hileman had 12 points and junior Jayla Woodruff had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Portage’s championship is even more impressive considering the Mustangs lost three key players to season-ending knee injuries in January (senior Lauren Shaffer, junior Maddy Hudak and second Jenna Burkett).
All three remained with the team and were on the bench on Friday.
“This year, I don’t think a lot of people in District 6 outside of our locker room thought Portage would be there, especially after Jan. 10,” Coach Hudak said. “Except for those 11 right there.
“They’re like, ‘We can still do it. We’re still better than everybody. Tonight we proved that in Single-A.
Adversity only made the Mustangs more determined.
“At Portage, it’s about that program,” said Coach Hudak. “We started these kids in kindergarten. These are the 11 who are with us. We don’t care about one or two. It’s about developing a team. We want banners with championships. All these girls are gamers.
“It’s about everyone in our program. These girls are resilient, they are proud and they play with such heart. When you have a team that plays like that and is selfless, you will win.
“I’m so proud of them.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.