By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
Winning District 10 championships never grows old for Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program; neither does it get necessarily easier.
Cochranton came out of the gate and cuffed KC in the kisser, as the Lady Redbirds roared to a 12-3 first-quarter lead during Saturday’s matinee at Farrell’s E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium.
However Kennedy kept its collective composure, closed Cochranton’s lead to 1 heading into the 2nd stanza, then erupted for 40 points over the next 16 minutes en route to a 67-45 rout of the Redbirds for the Class A crown.
“We did what we had to do; the second half was good for us,” assessed KC head coach Tom Burns. “We shared the ball a little more, and our defense was focused.
“I went into the locker room (at halftime) and told the girls, ‘You’re not gonna win a basketball game if you don’t rebound (Cochranton collected 23 caroms to KC’s 22) — they were getting three shots, we were getting one. Obviously the odds are definitely gonna hurt us in the end,” Burns admitted.
“My hat’s off to Cochranton. I think they played a great half,” Burns praised. “I don’t think we played that bad that Cochranton shouldn’t be proud of their effort ’cause it was a good effort, and they were shooting well.”
Madison Bernarding bucketed 8 first-period points, while Kennedy connected on only 5 of 20 floor shots. Akron University-bound Alex Ricketts missed her first half-dozen attempts before tossing in a triple with about 29 ticks to play in the period.
Kendall Dickson deposited a trio of 1st-half treys — she ultimately finished with a game-high 4 — offsetting Ricketts’ 5 and April Bocian’s 4 points, respectively, as Cochranton kept within striking distance, trailing 29-22 at intermission.
During the 3rd quarter, however, Cochranton committed 9 of its 23 miscues and missed 6 of 7 field-goal attempts. KC, conversely, canned 9 of 14 floor shots, with Courtney Sargent scoring 8 and Rachel Burns bucketing 6. The enabled the Lady Golden Eagles (22-2) to ease to a 53-25 edge through 3 quarters.
Ricketts rifled in a game-high 18 points, snared 7 caroms and dished out 4 assists, Burns bucketed 15 points, Sargent secured 14 points and a game-high 8 caroms, and Rebekah Kish connected for a trio of triples. Also, Bocian and Tatum Kress came off the bench to split 8 points, Kress came down with 4 caroms and dished out 2 assists, and Taylor Hood hauled down a handful of rebounds, also.
Fourteen seconds into the 2nd stanza Kress converted a pair of free-throw chances, giving the Lady Golden Eagles their initial lead (15-14), which they never relinquished.
For Cochranton (16-9), Kendall Dickson drilled a dozen points and Morghan Egli ended with a 9-point 9-rebound outing, while Bernarding boasted a 7-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist line. Also, Abby Clulow was credited with 4 assists. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after KC’s boys captured the crown at Cochranton’s expense, Bernarding — as with her Cochranton counterpart Nick Dickson — sustained a leg injury and did not return.
“We were ready to give ’em everything we had, we just ... in that third, got panicky, dribbled into the trap a few times and wanted to blame the cutters,” admitted 7th-year Cochranton coach Gary Egli. “Once we got over that hump we started competing again. It was just kids being kids.’
“Hopefully, this is good experience, and if they come back next year they’ll know not to be afraid of anybody,” Egli added, noting it’s been 21 years since a Cochranton club (girls) competed in the PIAA playoffs. Then Cochranton was coached by Paul Stainbrook (assisted by Egli’s wife and current assistant, Christa Egli).
Burns reflected, “This is three in a row (D-10 titles) and my fourth (in 6 seasons). It never gets old, winning never gets old, and it never gets easier. But I’m just proud of these kids. They worked their tails off, and this is their reward. I tell them, ‘This stuff happens with hard work,’ and they’re starting to get used to that.
“Alex and Rachel have won three, and Courtney two, so I think they’ve done their jobs,” Burns quipped.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP
COCHRANTON 14 8 3 20 45
KENNEDY 13 16 24 14 67
COCHRANTON — Kend. Dickson 4-0-0-12, Bernarding 3-0-0-7, Egli 4-1-4-9, Clulow 1-1-2-4, Quickel 1-0-0-2, Kass. Dickson 0-3-6-3, Offi 0-0-0-0, Vincent 1-0-0-2, Wager 1-2-4-4, Knauff 1-0-0-2, Kasbee 0-0-0-0, O’Donnell 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Kend. Dickson 4, Bernarding 1, Clulow 1. Totals: 16-7-16-45.
KENNEDY CATHOLIC — Burns 5-4-6-15, Ricketts 6-3-5-18, Sargent 6-2-4-14, Kish 3-0-0-9, Hood 1-1-2-3, Kress 1-2-2-4, Bocian 1-2-3-4, O’Brien 0-0-0-0, Volkay 0-0-0-0, Scoccia 0-0-0-0, Yacub 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Ricketts 3, Kish 3, Burns 1. Totals: 23-14-23-67.