DuBOIS — DuBois seniors Chelsea DeSalve and Maddie Smith stepped on their home floor for the final time in a game Monday night.
And, the duo went out in style as they helped the Lady Beavers end the program’s a 24-year drought without a playoff win with a 45-40 victory against Bellefonte in a District 6-8-9 Class 5A quarterfinal game.
The duo have been through a little bit of everything during their four-year varsity careers — including three previous playoff losses that could have ended that drought sooner.
Both played as freshman when DuBois lost to Obama Academy, 68-33, in a district play-in game at Clarion High School back in 2016. DeSalve had two points in that game, while Smith didn’t score.
Three years ago as sophomores they were part of a DuBois squad that hosted the program’s first home playoff game in more than decades. That appearance ended in heartache, as Bellefonte made the trip to DuBois and upended the second-seeded Lady Beavers, 42-36, in a 5A semifinal contest.
DeSalve had 14 points in that first playoff meeting with Bellefonte, while Smith had two.
DuBois found itself at home again last year for the District 6-8-9 5A semifinals, but the second-seeded Lady Beavers dropped a hard-fought 39-24 contest to Hollidaysburg.
Smith had four points against the loss to the Lady Golden Tigers, while DeSalve missed that game after suffering a non-basketball related injury the weekend prior to the contest.
That loss to Hollidaysburg ended the program’s best season in 28 years. DuBois finished with a 15-8 mark a year ago, the most wins since the 1989-90 squad went 20-5 under coach Pam Murdock.
The pair put all that postseason heartache behind them Monday though, as they — along with a roster full of freshmen and sophomores — etched their place in program history with the school’s first playoff win since a 42-39 victory over Punxsutawney in the 1995 D-9 Class 4A championship game.
DeSalve tied for a team-high with 11 points, seven in the second quarter, while Smith netted all four of her points during a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw DuBois maintain a one-point lead (35-34).
“I said coming into this that we really had nothing to lose because we’ve had home playoff games the past two years and we didn’t win them,” said DeSalve. “Our goal this year was just to make playoffs. We knew we had a young team, but once we made it (playoffs), we knew we had nothing to lose.
“I told the team, ‘tonight is the night, and we have to have each other’s back. When we get in our huddle today, we normally say team but today we said, ‘together.’ I really think we pulled through with that.
“After missing last year, it was awesome to be back and help the team win. It was very exciting.”
Smith said the win meant even more to the duo after a tough year in which they had to try to bring together such a young team.
“This year has been very hard as far as getting us together and working together as a team,” said Smith. “But, I think winning this playoff game, we’re at the top of the mountain. We’re there now.
“I’m just so happy because past playoff games, obviously we lost them and it was heartbreaking, but it also was amazing to get there. The satisfaction is there now to know we not only got here but got it (win).
“Everyone doubted us and thought we’d be some scrap team, but here we are.”
As far as getting that elusive playoff victory in their final home game, both chimed in at he same time with a resounding, “It’s an amazing feeling.”
The importance of the two on this year’s team was evident when speaking to head coach Keith Kriner following the game.
“They have been here for four years and are a huge reason why we won this game,” he said. “They have been the leaders all year long with no juniors on the team. I don’t want to say they got forced into the role, but they accepted that role.
“There have been challenges at times with our youth to get everyone to come together. But, they made it happen. Those two have been though it and seen it all, and some of the younger ones were getting their first taste of it.
“This group will always have this win to remember. It was great for Chelsea and Maddie to be a part of this win, and hopefully now that the younger ones got a taste it it, they want to do it more. We just want to make some excitement with basketball in DuBois again, and this group is helping to do that.”