Nazareth, Central Catholic advance to LVC girls basketball final
By Stephen Miller, The Morning call, Allentown, Pa.
Feb. 16–Nazareth has talked all season about its desire to play for championships.
A perennial power awaits the Blue Eagles as they pursue a league title.
no. 2 seed Nazareth moved a step closer to one of its goals by continuing its season-long mastery of no. 3 Parkland. A flattened-out 1-3-1 zone spurred a 17-2 second-half run by the Blue Eagles as they pulled away for a 48-39 win in the first game of Tuesday’s Lehigh Valley Conference girls basketball semifinal doubleheader at Freedom High School.
Top-seeded Central Catholic joined Nazareth in the title game by overwhelming no. 4 Bethlehem Catholic 46-28 in the second semifinal. Central Catholic has won six of the LVC’s eight titles since the league’s formation, including three straight. The Vikettes won their one regular-season meeting with Nazareth 42-41.
while Central Catholic (20-3 overall) rolled past the Golden Hawks (13-10), Nazareth (19-3) could not put away Parkland (18-5) until the fourth quarter of Game 1. The Trojans had moved within 30-26 midway through the third quarter before Nazareth ripped off its game-deciding run to beat them for the third time in as many meetings this season.
Caitlyn Gary (eight points, four assists) and Morgan Calabrese (six points, three steals) both connected on 3-pointers to jump-start the spurt. Erika Livermore added five of her team-high 11 points during the run, which ended with Nazareth leading 44-26. she also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, had four steals and blocked two shots.
Livermore, named the league’s MVP on Tuesday, did not dominate the way she did when Nazareth finished its regular-season sweep of Parkland on Feb. 4. The Blue Eagles instead beat the Trojans with balance. Kim Owens (nine points, six rebounds), Lennon Kramer (six points, six assists, three steals) and Jacki Hikes (six points) gave Nazareth six players with at least six points.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s me or the last person off the bench. We need people to step up every night,” Livermore said. “This is a team sport. one person is not going to win the game for you. Whoever’s getting us the points and getting our mojo going, we’re going to keep feeding it to them if they’re hot.”
Nazareth’s defense, meanwhile, held Parkland without a point for 7 minutes, 29 seconds between the middle of the third quarter and the middle of the fourth quarter. rather than extend their 1-3-1 trap out toward halfcourt, the Blue Eagles stayed back and trapped the Trojans when they threw the ball to the corner.
“That’s been our secondary defense all year,” Nazareth coach Rich Bickert said. “We play a little bit of everything, but man and 1-3-1 are probably are two strengths. they executed when we had to.”
Added Livermore: “We love that defense. it keeps the offense moving. it leads to double teams. it really throws people off. When we play that, we really feel in our element.”
Parkland finally broke its drought when Alissa Persichetti (10 points) hit a 3-pointer with 4:14 to play. That started an 8-0 run that moved the Trojans within 10 points, but they pushed no closer.
Jess Fritsche led Parkland with 13 points. Olivia Hassler added six points and 12 boards.
“It’s something for us to learn from,” Parkland coach Wes Spence said. “We’re a young team. We’re going to have those [dry] spells unfortunately.”
The second semifinal followed a familiar script, with Central Catholic dominating Bethlehem Catholic. The Vikettes improved to 8-1 all-time in the LVC semifinals in advancing to their fourth straight league final.
Jenna Kocsis helped Central Catholic roar out to a 27-9 halftime lead with 14 first-half points. she drilled four 3-pointers in the opening half, forcing the Golden Hawks to switch from their preferred zone defense to man-to-man.
Kocsis finished with 16 points, spending most of the fourth quarter on the bench with the rest of Central Catholic’s starters.
“We just came out really confident,” Kocsis said. “We knew we had to break the zone and shoot from the outside. We played a good team game.”
Central Catholic star Kerry Kinek ended any thoughts of a Bethlehem Catholic rally by dominating the third quarter. she scored 11 of her game-high 17 points during the quarter, going 3-for-3 from the field and 5-for-5 from the foul line. she also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and handed out three assists.
Bethlehem Catholic endured a miserable time trying to score against Central Catholic’s starters. Down just 12-7 late in the first quarter, the Golden Hawks went 13:44 without a field goal, scoring just three points during that span.
“I was worried about their quickness there in the first quarter, because they were getting some baskets because we weren’t reacting quick enough on the pass,” Central Catholic coach Mike Kopp said. “After we took that away and adjusted, I thought defensively we took things they wanted to do away and made it difficult.”
Nazareth and Central Catholic both expect a tougher time in Friday’s 6 p.m. final at Freedom High School than either one received Tuesday. The Blue Eagles are especially eager for a second crack at the Vikettes after Livermore missed a driving layup that would have given Nazareth a win in the regular-season meeting.
“We want to beat the best team,” Bickert said. “I thought we played them pretty well over there. We’ll see what happens on a bigger court. they have the experience, but our kids are getting pretty confident.”
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