NEW KINGSTOWN >> With the clock winding down Wednesday night, Berks Catholic's girls basketball team found itself in a familiar position.
"They had a good end-of-game routine, and we didn't want to get to that, because they've done this so many times," Greencastle-Antrim coach Mike Rhine said.
The Saints weathered all the threats the Blue Devils could muster in the second round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament and captured a 53-45 victory at Cumberland Valley High School.
Berks Catholic (23-6) will face West Perry (25-3) in the quarterfinals on Saturday, and Greencastle ends its historic season with a 25-4 record.
"We wouldn't trade this for anything, though," Blue Devil senior Jane Herman said. "It was the first time in history going (to states) for soccer, and now for basketball, so it was a really memorable senior year. We would've liked it to go longer, but nobody is ever ready for anything to end."
Greencastle put up one heck of a fight. The teams featured seven lead changes and six ties, and neither team ever led by more than eight points. With about four minutes left, the Blue Devils took a 37-36 lead on a layup from Katie Gelsinger, but the Saints answered with two big buckets.
Courtney Wensel was trapped on the baseline between three Devil defenders, but she somehow banked in a shot off the backboard to recapture the lead. Haley Kubinak then hit the Saints' only 3-pointer of the night to solidify a 41-37 lead that Greencastle never came back from.
"That was huge," Berks Catholic coach Bob Birmingham said. "It was a one-point lead, and she buried that three as I'm saying, 'No, no, no.' She took one earlier, and it was in and out, but it was a great shot. I told she'd make the next one, and she did, and it was great timing."
The Saints then expanded their lead with strong free-throw shooting. They were 7 of 9 from the line in the final quarter.
"We needed to do something to stop the clock," Greencastle's Jenay Faulkner said. "Fouling was really our only choice. We never give up, so we had to do something to fight through that entire quarter."
There were other spots in the game that the Blue Devils will likely want back. Berks Catholic opened the game on a six-point run – all of which came from Wensel – and Greencastle didn't score until four minutes into the contest. The Blue Devils also led 17-15 at halftime but quickly saw that lead evaporate, when the Saints reeled off eight straight points to begin the third quarter.
"The last thing I said on the way out of the locker room was that this was a very important juncture in the game," Rhine said. "They won those minutes, but we overcame that. We even got the lead back, but then those two plays on back-to-back possessions stand out."
Herman said, "I know I missed my share of shots, and some of our shots just weren't falling. It would've helped if we wouldn't have let those runs happen, but we can't do anything about it now. I think if some of our shots would've fallen, it would've made a big difference."
Greencastle struggled with shooting all evening. The Blue Devils shot a mere 28.8 percent from the field, while Berks Catholic shot 41.9 percent. And while Greencastle got a big second half from Faulkner (12 points in the second), the Saints had the answer in the form of Devon Merritt.
Merritt had just three points in the first half, but finished with the game's only double-double, scoring 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
"You don't have to say anything to her," Birmingham said. "She's a great kid, and she knows what is needed. All we tell her is to let the game come to her; don't force it. Even when she fouled out, she was getting upset, but I told her to relax and that we needed her to be the best cheerleader now, and she did that."
NOTES >> Faulkner finished with a game-high 18 points and had six rebounds and five steals ... Gelsinger and Hannah Crist both finished in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively ... Wensel contributed 12 points for Berks ... Herman received a standing ovation when she fouled out in the final minute.
BERKS CATHOLIC (53)
Haley Kubinak 2 0-0 5, Courtney Wensel 6 0-1 12, Xiomara Toledo 0 4-4 4, Devon Merritt 6 5-7 17, Brooke Wensel 1 5-5 9, MiKayla Lea 3 0- 6, Olivia Zdradzinski 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 18 14-17 53
Jenay Faulkner 6 3-6 18, Hannah Crist 2 5-6 10, Katie Gelsinger 5 2-2 12, Megan Hirneisen 1 0-0 2, Jane Herman 1 1-2 3, Hannah Zimmerman 0 0-0 0, Shelby Stouffer 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 15 11-16 45
3-point goals — BC 1 (Kubinak), GA 4 (Faulkner 3, Crist).