McCONNELLSBURG - Just about 24 hours before game time, McConnellsburg's girls basketball coach Brent Seville got an unthinkable call.
His father-in-law, Dave Hoover, had just unexpectedly passed away. Not only did Seville lose a close family member, but he had to break some dreadful news to his team - the Lady Spartans lost their assistant coach.
To say the least, McConnellsburg went into Friday night's District 5 Class A quarterfinal against Johnstown Christian feeling a bit emotional. But the Spartans used that energy to claim a 69-48 victory on their home court.
"In the locker room, Dave would always say that we have to win for somebody," Seville said. "One night it was a grandparent, or it was someone's birthday. So tonight, I told them, 'You know who you have to win this one for.' He was 69 years old, and that's what we ended up with tonight."
McConnellsburg junior Bridgette Ritchey, who had the best game of her career, said, "I just tried to do the best I could for Dave. It was very emotional tonight, but we knew he wanted us to have the first round win for sure, so we did this for him."
With the victory, McConnellsburg (16-7) advances to face No. 1-seeded Meyersdale (20-4) in the semifinals Wednesday at a site to be decided. Meyersdale defeated Forbes Road, 52-42, on Friday.
Leading by a comfortable 11-point margin at halftime, the Spartans came out on fire in the third quarter. The Blue Jays (15-6) scored the first points of the second half with a 3-pointer form Beth Felix, but then McConnellsburg responded with a 16-3 run to bring its lead to as many as 21 points.
"One thing that they have that we don't, that you can't teach, is height, and that hurt us," Johnstown Christian coach Margaret Atkins said. "What do you do about that? You just try to defend it as much as you can. I thought we did a good job on No. 22 (Bronwyne Mellott), especially in the first half, but when you put all those other things into place, things can get difficult on us."
Johnstown did limit Mellott for the first half. She was held to a mere four points, but then she exploded for 29 in the second half. She was 7-for-7 from the floor in the final quarter, scoring 20 points down the stretch to ensure the victory.
Despite obvious frustration for the Spartans' leading scorer, Mellott was lifted by her supporting cast. All of Alexis Mellott's eight points came in the first half, and Justice Seville drained both her 3-pointers in the opening 16 minutes.
The difference-maker may have been Ritchey, though. She set the tone for McConnellsburg on the boards, accruing 19 rebounds to go along with a career-high 14 points. The Spartans totaled an astounding 53 rebounds.
"We knew they were shorter than us, so coming in, we had to get the boards," Bronwyne Mellott said. "There was no reason that they should out-rebound us, and we practiced it a good bit, too. We put a big focus on rebounding, and my teammates really stepped it up tonight. I was so proud of them."
Poor shooting was especially costly for the Blue Jays, who shot 24.2 percent from the floor. They were held to only one layup until the final quarter and had to settle for tough and sometimes long outside shots.
"We made sure that we had their best two shooters covered," Ritchey said. "We pushed them back out farther, so it was harder for them to get shots. They were beyond the arc when they took most of their shots."
Notes: Johnstown was led by Felix and Maddie Sprankle, who finished with 25 and 18 points, respectively; the rest of the team scored just five ... Ritchey pushed a triple-double with six assists ... Kellyn Perry also grabbed 10 off the glass, and Kylie Keefer, who Seville said was especially close with Hoover, finished with four points, five rebounds and three assists.
McConnellsburg 69, Johnstown Christian 48
Johnstown Christian (48)
Kristie Lynch 0 0-0 0, Kyrstin Jeffreys 0 2-2 2, Ashley Euen 1 1-2 3, Maddie Sprankle 5 5-9 18, Beth Felix 10 0-1 25, Lorna Speigle 0 0-0 0, Kelsie Shook 0 0-0 0, Alaina Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals — 16 8-14 48.
Alexis Mellott 3 0-0 8, Bridgette Ritchey 5 4-8 14, Justice Seville 2 0-0 6, Kylie Keefer 2 0-0 4, Bronwyne Mellott 14 2-2 33, Kellyn Perry 2 0-2 4, Leah Seville 0 0-0 0. Totals — 28 6-12 69.
Johnstown Chr. _ 10 _ 10 _ 9 _ 19 _ — _ 48
McConnellsburg _ 17 _ 14 _ 18 _ 20 _ — _ 69
3-point goals — JC 8 (Felix 5, Sprankle 3), McC 7 (B.Mellott 3, A.Mellott 2, J.Seville 2).