WILLIAMSTOWN - For the better part of three quarters, the Williamstown Yellowjackets played like anything but a team lacking experience in big games such as Wednesday evening's Class A, Region IV game against Charleston Catholic.
Unfortunately for head coach Fred Sauro and his Yellowjackets, that inexperience showed up in a big way in the final eight minutes.
The Irish used a tenacious full court pressure defense to force the 'Jackets into 11 fourth quarter turnovers and outscore WHS 19-5 in the final eight minutes to score a 54-49 victory to earn a berth to the state tournament in Charleston.
Photo by Michael Uhl
Williamstown’s Melissa Cieslewski puts a shot over a Charleston Catholic defender during their Class A, Region IV, Section 2 game Wednesday. The Yellowjackets lost, 54-49.
WHS post player Melissa Cieslewski had a huge opening half as she had already completed a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds) before the first half came to a close.
Charleston Catholic closed the lead to five on a Anna Whelan score but the Yellowjackets scored the next nine points to stretch their lead to 27-13 with less than four minutes to play before the break.
Williamstown (16-8) looked like they just might turn the game into a laugher early in the second half as they opened the third quarter by scoring 13 of the first 23 points to open up their biggest lead of the game at 42-27 with a little more than a minute to play in the third quarter.
The final minute of the third quarter may have well proved to be the start of the Williamstown downfall as the Irish forced three turnovers and scored six quick points to whittle the lead down to just nine heading to the final quarter.
Peyton Mullen and Caroline Dundervill each scored quick field goals in the final quarter after Williamstown turnovers and all of a sudden the Yellowjacket lead was down to just five at 44-39 with 7:10 to play.
Freshman Samantha Dedrick stopped the bleeding momentarily for WHS with a strong finish inside but Dundervill and Whelan answered for the Irish to make it a 46-43 game with 4:50 to play.
Dedrick made good on the front end of a one-on-one to push the lead back to four but another Whelan score with two minutes to play closed the lead to just two.
Williamstown continued to struggle to get the ball up the court and Dundervill came up with a huge steal at midcourt and then found Whelan wide open for a game-tying lay-up to knot things at 47.
The 'Jackets once again turned the ball over on its next possession, giving Catholic the chance to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
After getting the ball knocked away under their own goal, the Irish pulled back in front on a Gallian short jumper off of a nifty inbound assist from Dundervill.
Vida Imani created yet another Williamstown turnover and really made things miserable for the 'Jackets when she converted an old-fashioned three-point play at the other end to give the Irish a five-point lead with just 60 seconds remaining on the clock.
A Cieslewski bucket cut the lead to 52-49 and after Ashley Morris and Robinson stripped the ball away from Charleston Catholic to give the 'Jackets possession of the ball, Robinson came up empty on a pair of free throws.
The Irish went to the line just seven times in the game but Mullen connected on a pair with 14 ticks remaining on the clock to cap the stunning comeback and punch the Charleston Catholic ticket to Charleston.
Whelan led a very balanced scoring attack for Charleston Catholic (19-6) with 16 points, while Gallian, Dundervill and Mullen contributed 11, 10, and 10 points respectively.
Ciesleski led the way for Williamstown with 21 points and 18 boards while Dedrick added 13 points.