EAST STROUDSBURG — The Warrior women dominated defensively in the first half.
That set the stage for their first trip to the conference semifinals in three seasons.
Tiff Lapotsky netted a game-high 22 points, Jordan Hertz had nine steals and Abby Schoffstall grabbed five steals to lead No. 2 East Stroudsburg to a 53-42 win over No. 6 Bloomsburg in the PSAC women’s basketball quarterfinals at ESU’s Koehler Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. The Warriors advance to the semifinal round for the first time since 2016-17, where they will face No. 1 IUP on Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors (20-9, 16-7 PSAC) forced 13 first-half turnovers by the Huskies and limited themselves to just four. That helped ESU establish a 32-8 lead with two minutes to play in the first half.
“Our defensive intensity set the tone, and our defense generated our offense and we were running on all cylinders,” Warrior head coach Stephanie Del Preore said. “Our intensity really kept us going. We just didn’t stop. We stepped on the gas for 40 minutes.”
During the regular season, ESU split the series with Bloomsburg, winning 62-57 at home on Jan. 8 but falling 63-43 on the road.
Lapotsky didn’t forget that heading into Wednesday’s contest.
“We knew it was a revenge game,” Lapotsky said. “Our game plan was to pack it in the paint. They have good post players. We just wanted to pack it in, and that’s how we generated our steals, just by digging in and getting those tips on loose balls.”
In total, ESU wound up with 11 steals while Bloomsburg only nabbed four.
Lapotsky and Hertz are the team’s lone senior athletes. To have the chance to go back to the conference semis after two years of being kept out, Lapotsky was beaming after the game.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Lapotsky said. “I haven’t been – and Jordan as well, our other senior hasn’t been there since our freshman year, and the others girls haven’t been there at all, so it’s a really neat experience.
“Sad that we have to travel for it. We wish we could host it here, but we’re just ready to play and our goal is to win it all.”
The Huskies (14-14, 10-13 PSAC) led twice in the early minutes of the game but never regained control. They did, however, claw to narrow the deficit to just eight points, 46-38, with just over four minutes to play.
“Cutting it to eight I think just fueled us a little bit more because I think we realized that it got pretty close,” Del Preore said. “But I don’t know if it was more concern as to more of a question of what do we have to do to fix this? Because we were getting wide-open shots, we just weren’t making them."
Lapotsky credited Del Preore, the first-year East Stroudsburg coach, for much of the team’s success this season.
“She brings positive energy every single day,” Lapotsky said. “And she’s somebody where if you’re having an off day, she’s going to be there to pick you up and she expects the same. She really strives on us being a family, and I think this year out of all the years, we’ve been such a great family towards each other.”
To see the unity come to fruition in the form of a trip to the conference semis is rewarding for Del Preore.
“I’m so proud of the girls,” she said. “I think they deserve this. They deserved the second place right where we were, and they deserved the (first-round) bye at home. To come out with this win is huge, but the girls have a vision and it’s to get even further, so I’m really excited.”
The Warriors will face No. 1 Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. IUP, which defeated No. 4 California University of Pennsylvania 68-65 in overtime on Wednesday, also beat ESU 65-50 on Nov. 24 in their lone regular-season contest.
PSAC Women’s Basketball Quarterfinal
No. 2 East Stroudsburg 53, No. 6 Bloomsburg 42
Bloomsburg 8 7 12 15 - 42
ESU 19 15 7 12 - 53
Brandt 0 0-0 0, Corridoni 4 0-0 10, Saxton 5 1-2 11, Spadaccino 1 2-4 4, Montana 2 0-0 4, Hayward 1 2-2 4, Ricci 0 0-0 0, Gochnauer 3 1-1 7, Fisher 0 0-0 0, Oeth 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 6-9 42.
Hertz 2 0-0 5, Lapotsky 8 4-5 22, Creswell 0 0-2 0, Kutz 6 3-3 15, Swint 2 0-0 4, Schofstall 1 0-0 2, Ksiazek 1 1-2 3, Bassett 0 0-0 0, Wigoda 0 0-0 0, Librizzi 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 8-12 53.
3-pointers: BU 2 (Corridoni 2); ESU 3 (Lapotsky 2, Hertz).