As many Wellsboro players walked off the Montoursville court Saturday, they had red eyes. A 67-31 District 4 Class AA quarterfinal loss to two-time defending champion Mount Carmel was not the way they hoped their season would end.
But from Wellsboro's perspective, that was not the big story yesterday. The big story was that the Green Hornets were there at all.
Wellsboro overcame a 2-7 start, won its last two regular-season games to qualify and then stunned Warrior Run in the opening round while winning its first playoff game since 2004. The loss hurts, but the upward climb will be remembered more.
Kiana Acorn (23) of Wellsboro and Jennifer Bolick (4) of Mount Carmel chase a loose ball Saturday at Montoursville.
"They could have hung their heads at 2-7 because it's really tough to come back from that but they did. They just really pulled it together," Wellsboro coach Mary Grab said. "They're a good group of kids. They're good people and they don't get down on each other."
Wellsboro (12-12) hung tough with the top seed for the game's first 12 minutes before Mount Carmel (20-4) started dominating. The Hornets trailed only 16-10 midway through the second quarter and had several chances to possibly take a lead. Once Mount Carmel started rolling, though, it was tough to stop.
The Tornadoes outscored Wellsboro 36-10 over the next 12 minutes while winning their eighth straight district playoff game. Mount Carmel also earned a spot against Muncy in next week's semifinals.
Point guard Ali Varano sparked a swarming Mount Carmel defense that forced 36 turnovers and she also was outstanding offensively. The fast senior leader scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and made four steals. Center Christina Perles added 15 points and six rebounds.
While the upset hopes diminished, Wellsboro's determination never did. The Hornets kept going all-out and freshman Jada Jackson epitomized the effort, diving for a loose ball in the game's final seconds.
"They didn't give up," Grab said. "They showed a lot of heart."
Jackson and fellow freshman Sarah Ingerick combined for 13 points and five steals. Jackson also had eight rebounds. Senior Mackenzie Marple capped a brilliant season by dealing seven assists and making three steals. She and her fellow seniors helped keep the team together when Wellsboro was 2-7 and playoffs seemed like a far-fetched dream.
"All our seniors were steady," Grab said. "They all improved as the season went along."
Wellsboro disrupted Mount Carmel at times in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers.
Mackenzie Marple 1 0-0 2, Sarah Ingerick 3 1-2 7, Jada Jackson 2 2-2 6, Hannah Zuchowski 4 0-0 8, Kim Acorn 2 2-8 6, Jordan Butters 0 0-1 0, Jesse Catherman 1 0-0 2, Kiana Acorn 0 0-2 0. Totals 13 5-15 31.
MOUNT CARMEL (67)
Christina Perles 6 3-4 15, Ali Varano 9 5-6 23, Ana Raybuck 1 1-2 3, Paige Hornung 2 0-0 6, Isabella Stellar 3 1-2 8, Jennifer Bolick 1 2-2 5, Allison Parker 1 3-6 5, Jordan Winhofer 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 15-22 67.
Wellsboro6 6 8 11-31
Mt. Carmel12 18 22 15-67
3-pointers: Mount Carmel 4 (Hornung 2, Stellar, Bolick).
Records: Mount Carmel 20-4. Wellsboro 12-12.