DuBOIS — The DuBois girls basketball team pulled out a thrilling 45-40 victory against Bellefonte Monday night in a District 6-8-9 Class 5A quarterfinal game, and in the process etched its place in program and school history.
The victory ended the longest current playoff win drought in school history — a triumph 24 years in the making. The DuBois football team now holds that dubious honor with its last postseason victory coming in 1996.
The last time a Lady Beavers team walked off the court the victors in a postseason game was 1995 District 9 Class 4A championship game — a contest in which DuBois beat Punxsutawney, 42-39. That DuBois squad was led by Erin Henry and Natalie Renzel.
This time around it was the senior duo of Chelsea DeSalve and Maddie Smith tasked to lead an otherwise young DuBois squad made up of freshmen and sophomores. Bellefonte featured a young team itself with one senior and three juniors on its roster.
The contest was a rematch of regular season game won by DuBois, 36-34, on its home floor Jan. 10. That matchup went down to the wire just like Monday night did. And, in both instances, DuBois was able to make enough plays down the stretch to come away with the “W.”
Monday night’s was just a little bigger than the one back in January, while also getting some revenge on the Lady Red Raiders. Bellefonte played a part in the Lady Beavers’ postseason woes two years ago, as they came in an knocked off a higher-seeded DuBois squad, 42-36, in the 5A semifinals to reach the District 6-8-9 title game.
Just four players from that game were in the floor Monday — DeSalve and Smith for DuBois and Mallorie Smith and Maddie Steiner for Belllefonte. All four played key roles Monday, with DeSalve (11) and Mallorie Smith (14) leading their respective teams in scoring.
The outcome largely came down to the play of DuBois’ sophomores though, as Olivia Johnson (11 points, 3 blocks), Saige Weible (9 points, 14 rebounds) and Abby Guiher (8 points) all made major contributions in the victory.
Johnson had 11 points in the first meeting, as did DeSalve, but Weible and Guiher combined for just six points in that meeting.
The win also was a huge bounce back for a Lady Beaver squad that ended last week with a pair of tough losses — 47-44 at home to Elk County Catholic and 66-30 Friday at Brookville.
“For them to bounce back after the emotional low that they were at ending the (regular) season the way did was awesome,” said DuBois coach Keith Kriner. “Friday was a complete meltdown, but that was in part from the repercussions Elk game.
“We sat them down and talked to them and said you guys are better than you’re showing. Let’s take it one game at a time and get this first win under out belt. We didn’t stress anything about the 24 years or anything like that. We just said this is something you can do.
“We beat them earlier this year and did not play a good game in that one. It was a similar game to the first one in many ways. Halfway through the game, (assistant) Brad (LaBue) said it’s going to be punch and counter punch the whole way, and it was.
“It was a team effort. I told the girls afterwards that we’re probably not the most talented team that has come through under my tenure, but you guys got the job done. They played with so much heart tonight, diving for balls on the floor, yelling and fed off the crowd a little I believe. This is what high school sports are all about, the excitement.
“We finished tonight unlike a lot of games this year. We forced Bellefonte out of their game a little, and the key was we didn’t give them second chances and got rebounds tonight. We played a great game, about as good as we can play.
“That was one best games we’ve played all year. I give credit to Bellefonte too, though. They are about as equal to us as you can be. We were fortunate enough to come out on the winning end.”
DuBois (11-12) jumped out to an early lead behind the play of Johnson and Weible inside. Weible scored the Lady Beavers’ first four points, while Johnson added three to put DuBois up 7-2 just over two minutes into the game.
The duo combined for all of DuBois’ scoring in the first eight minutes as the Lady Beavers led 11-8 after one quarter. Johnson had seven points in the quarter.
Bellefonte wasted little time seizing its first lead early in the second quarter with a 6-0 spurt to go up 14-11. DuBois answered right back with two baskets by Johnson to regain the lead at 15-14 with 5:29 left in the quarter. Johnson, who found herself in second-half foul trouble, scored all 11 of her points before the break.
The game turned into a see-saw affair from there in the final five minutes of the half. The teams traded the lead eight times after Johnson’s second bucket.
DuBois came out of the stretch with a 25-23 lead at the break. Guiher hit a key 3-pointer with 1:52 left, while DeSalve scored the final three points of the half to send her team into the locker room with a two-point advantage. DeSalve posted seven of her 11 in the second quarter.
DeSalve scored just 23 seconds into the third quarter to put DuBois up four (27-23), as the Lady Beavers never trailed in the quarter. Bellefonte pulled even at 34-34 with 1:56 remainng, but Weible went 1 of 2 at the foul line with 1:46 on the clock to put DuBois back up 35-34.
The third quarter was otherwise sloppy for both teams as Bellefonte had 10 turnovers in the period and DuBois nine. Maddie Smith netted all four of her points in the quarter for DuBois, while Guiher hit her second trey of the game.
DeSalve hit another key bucket to start the fourth — this time just nine seconds in — to give the Lady Beavers a three-point lead (37-34). Weible scored on a putback just over a minute later to extend that lead to five at 39-34.
Foul trouble then mounted for DuBois as Weible and Johnson each picked up their fourth moments apart. With the duo on the bench, Bellefonte got back-to-back baskets from Mallorie Smith and Dehaas to get within a point (39-38).
Dehaas’ hoop with 4:03 to play proved to be the last field goal for either team in the game though, as things turned into a foul shooting battle.
DuBois’ numbers at the line weren’t pretty on the night, hitting just 11 of 22. However, the Lady Beavers made enough down the stretch (6 of 12) compared to just 2 of 3 for Bellefonte in the final 3:30.
And, it was those sophomores who came up big again to seal the win.
Guiher was 2-for-2 at the stripe, while Weible was 2 of 6. Fellow sophomore Taylor Smith made 2 of 4. Guiher finished with eight points.
“We made some big throws down the stretch, but if we had made more, it wouldn’t have been nearly as close,” said Kriner.
Next up for DuBois is a trip to top-seeded Hollidaysburg Thursday at 7 p.m. The Lady Golden Tigers won at DuBois, 59-32, on Dec. 11.
Second-seeded Obama Academy hosts third-seeded Portage in the other semifinal.