NORTHAMPTON — The Panthers’ hopes for a district championship came to an end.
Fortunately for them, their season did not.
Vatijah Darby scored 11 points and Paige Knecht added nine, but No. 6 Pocono Mountain West fell 48-42 to No. 2 Freedom in the District 11 Class 6A girls basketball semifinal round Tuesday night at Catasauqua High School.
Freedom advances to Friday night’s district championship game, where the Patriots will meet No. 1 Nazareth. The Panthers will face No. 5 Parkland in the consolation round ahead of the title game.
Pocono Mountain West (15-9) traded leads with Freedom throughout the first three quarters of action but fell behind early in the fourth quarter when the Patriots opened the frame on a 7-2 run.
West rallied back to cut the deficit to 35-33 with 4:08 to play, but that was as close as the Panthers would get to the 2019-20 district title.
“We just didn’t follow our game plan,” Panther coach Chrissy Campos said. “We didn’t box out, we didn’t hit inside and that was my game plan the whole time.
“Our guards match up pretty evenly. Our bigs are where we were going to try and take them down, and we just didn’t get the ball inside. And when we did, we didn’t convert things. That’s the way it goes.”
Down 22-16 with 5:30 to play in the third quarter, momentum appeared to shift back in West’s favor on a sudden 6-0 run.
Taliyah Malone drilled a quick 3-pointer, and at the other end, teammate Azahni Simmons forced a turnover and miraculously get the ball inbounds and sent it rolling toward the West basket with seemingly no Panther in sight. Darby somehow caught up to it, barely kept it in play, missed her first attempt, got the rebound, made the layup and drew the foul for a successful and-one to tie it back at 22.
The rest of the third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but the Panthers never truly capitalized on their scoring opportunities. Campos saw that sequence as a missed turning point for Pocono West.
“I think those kinds of hustle plays are the things that do swing momentum in favor of us,” Campos said. “And that just doesn’t happen today.”
That was reflective of the larger issue on Tuesday – the Panthers just didn’t play well, Campos said. Missed shots and rushed passes plagued Pocono West throughout the game, particularly in the first half.
And when presented with chances late, the Panthers couldn’t find the basket.
“As you get further in the season, teams get better,” Campos said. “So those little costly mistakes cost you big in the end, and unfortunately that’s what happened here today.”
The Panthers are still guaranteed two more games – the consolation game Friday and a first-round game in the PIAA Class 6A tournament on March 6. Campos said Tuesday’s game serves as a good learning moment before the true end of their season arrives.
“There’s a game plan we put in place,” Campos said. “We didn’t follow the game plan (and) the outcome doesn’t come out the way we wanted it to. So that’s what we learn from this. We’re going to have a game plan for the next game. We’ve got to follow that game plan.”
With a quick turnaround ahead of Friday’s contest, Campos said Wednesday’s practice will be a lighter load while still working on shots. Thursday’s practice is expected to be a harder session to get the Panthers ready for Friday.
District 11 Class 6A Girls Basketball Semifinal
No. 2 Freedom 48, No. 6 PM West 42
PM West 9 7 11 15 - 42
Freedom 7 8 13 20 - 48
PM West 42
Weirich 1 0-0 2, Knecht 3 0-0 9, Malone 2 0-0 6, Bowen 2 0-0 5, Simmons 2 0-0 5, Darby 4 3-7 11, Owens 2 0-0 4. Totals: 16 3-7 42.
Ortwein 3 5-8 11, Martin 0 0-0 0, Gill 1 2-2 4, Turpening 1 8-10 11, Jefferson 0 0-0 0, Levy 1 0-0 3, Kokolus 6 7-12 19. Totals: 12 22-32 48.
3-pointers: PMW 7 (Knecht 3, Malone 2, Bowen, Simmons); F 2 (Turpening, Levy).