For now, a bit of pressure is off the Lady Panthers.
Head coach Chrissy Campos said that won’t change their demeanor heading into their next game.
Pocono Mountain West will battle Parkland in the District 11 Class 6A girls basketball consolation game at William Allen High School at 6 p.m. on Friday. The contest determines which teams will be the district’s respective third and fourth seeds entering the PIAA Class 6A state tournament.
“I think this group just genuinely wants to win,” Campos said Thursday. “So it doesn’t matter if it’s a consolation game or a championship game. They just want to win. Don’t think there’s any less pressure or more pressure on them. They’ve just kept pretty level coming into games.”
The Panthers (15-9) found themselves in the consolation round after falling 48-42 to No. 2 Freedom in Tuesday night’s semifinal round. Parkland lost its semifinal game to No. 1 Nazareth 52-26.
Pocono West already has winning experience over the Trojans this season thanks to a 41-37 home victory on Jan. 2. Campos said that game served as a critical turning point for the rest of the Panthers’ season.
“I think for them, this meant that they arrived,” Campos said. “That if they play well, they’re just as good as a Parkland, a Northampton.”
That shift in the team’s mentality was key, but the results didn’t show immediately in following games. West lost each of its next four games to Bethlehem Catholic, Allentown Central Catholic, Freedom and Northampton.
That stretch, though, came in the midst of an emotional roller coaster that was preparing to plummet as the team lost head coach Stacy Perryman.
Just over a month removed from the tragedy, the Panthers continue to move forward while honoring their fallen coach.
The focus now shifts to Parkland (15-10) as West already puts Freedom in the rear-view mirror.
“This group of girls is very resilient,” Campos said. “They know there’s nothing they can do to change the outcome of (Tuesday’s) game, so we’ve kind of put it aside and we’re focusing on the next step.”
To beat the Trojans a second time, a program which has stifled opponents with its defense this year, Campos knows everyone will need to play at their highest potential yet again.
“We’re going to have to be on our game,” Campos said. “We’e going to have to button down. We’re going to have a game plan and we’re going to have to follow that game plan.”
Not following the game plan was the Panthers’ biggest downfall against Freedom in the semis.
Campos said she needs senior AiyannaLee Owens to step up her game and seniors Caroline Weirich and Paige Knecht to continue to build on the momentum they created against Freedom.
But more important might be the spark that comes off the bench in Vatijah Darby, a 5-foot-10 freshman who relentlessly attacks the rim on either side of the floor.
Despite the team being mainly senior-laden, Campos sees the other players on the floor feed off Darby’s palpable energy and believes the upperclassmen are actually learning from the underclassman player.
“I think they see how Vatijah comes off the bench and how Vatijah just comes out and does things,” Campos said. “And then they’re like, ’If she can do it, I can do it as well.’ So yeah, I think seeing Vee come in and basically be fearless in there, that kind of motivates the older girls as well as some of the younger girls.”
The winner of Friday’s contest will face the No. 4 seed from District 1 in the first round of the state tournament on March 6, while the losing program will face District 1’s No. 3 seed.
Plymouth-Whitemarsh will battle Spring-Ford in the District 1 consolation game Friday to determine their respective seeding.