Yurchak’s Buzzer-beater Lifts Cougars Past CB West
SALEM TWP. — With the game tied and the final seconds ticking down, Hazleton Area needed the shot of the season.
Fortunately, the Cougars had the ball in the hands of their senior leader.
Virginia Yurchak drove the baseline and put up a two-foot shot over two defenders as the clock hit all zeros.
When the ball went through the net as the final horn blared, Yurchak was swarmed by her teammates and the Cougars were moving on in the state tournament.
Faith Grula scored 12 points, Yurchak finished with 10, and the District 2 champions advanced in the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball tournament with a 40-38 opening-round victory over District 1 rep Central Bucks West.
The Cougars (21-6) will play a second-round game against Neshaminy on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The Redskins beat Cedar Cliff 48-38 on Friday night.
“Ginny wanted it the whole year,” said Hazleton Area head coach Joe Gavio, soaked from a post-game celebration in the locker room. “I couldn’t be happier for a bunch of kids. It’s big for these kids, because they believed all year.”
They certainly continued to believe on Friday night.
After just one point separated the two teams throughout much of the first half, CB West (18-10) used a deep 3-pointer by Division I recruit Maddie Burke — her only basket of the game — to move in front 25-23 early in the third quarter. Four Izzy Treon free throws, and a steal and layup from freshman Emily Spratt gave the Bucks their biggest lead (33-26) through three quarters.
Down by seven points heading to the fourth quarter, Hazleton Area needed big shots from everyone in the lineup to work its way back.
Marissa Trivelpiece’s 3-pointer off an inbound play got the ball rolling for the Lady Cougars. She hit a free throw moments later, then passed out to Brooke Boretski, whose huge triple from the left of the key pulled the locals within a point (34-33) with just under four minutes to play.
The Bucks went back up by three on two Olivia Irons free throws with 1:40 left, but the Lady Cougars kept coming.
Saddled with four fouls, Yurchak returned to the game and hit the biggest 3-pointer of her career, rattling home a triple from the corner to tie the game at 36 with 48 seconds to play.
“Once Ginny made the shot, I knew we had the spark and I knew that we could just keep rolling with it,” Grula said.
After Burke missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Lady Cougars turned it over, but Grula stole the ball off Smith near halfcourt, then drove the rest of the way for a layup, giving Hazleton Area a 38-36 lead with 17 seconds remaining.
“Have you ever seen so many big plays by a team?,” asked Gavio, before running through the team’s momentum-changing plays in the fourth quarter.
“Marissa hits a big one, Brooke hits a big one, Ginny hits a big one, Faith gets a steal and hits a layup to put us up two.”
Although Jess Broskey’s two free throws with 7.8 seconds left got CB West back into a 38-all tie, it simply set the stage for Yurchak’s last-second heroics.
Getting the ball on the right side with about three seconds to play, Yurchak drove the baseline and lifted a 2-foot shot over two defenders.
Some at courtside thought it beat the buzzer, and others felt the shot came a split-second late. Regardless, the bucket was ruled good as the Lady Cougars swarmed Yurchak and celebrated their first state playoff win in more than a decade.
“I heard the buzzer go off, I looked up and I saw it go in the hoop, and the next thing you know I was on the floor,” Yurchak said, still smiling from ear to ear. “I didn’t hear a whistle, so I was like we must have won.”
The Lady Cougars left the Berwick Varsity Gymnasium on Cloud 9, and were moving on in the state tournament.
“It feels amazing,” Yurchak said. “I love my team so much, and celebrating this with them makes it so much better.”
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PIAA Class 6A First Round At Berwick Varsity Gymnasium
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST (38) — Gilbert 0 0-0 0, Irons 2 3-4 7, Broskey 1 5-6 7, Burke 1 2-3 5, Spratt 1 4-4 6, Treon 2 4-5 8, Evans 0 0-0 0, Abelson 2 0-0 5. Totals 9 18-22 38.
HAZLETON AREA (40) — Trivelpiece 2 1-2 6, Antolick 1 2-2 4, Wolk 2 1-2 5, Boretski 1 0-0 3, Garnett 0 0-0 0, Yurchak 4 0-1 10, Grula 5 2-4 12. Totals 15 6-11 40.
CB W (18-10) 10 12 11 5 — 38 Haz Area (20-6) 11 10 5 14 — 40
3-point FGs: Burke, Abelson, Yurchak 2, Trivelpiece, Boretski