HOUSTON – The Chartiers-Houston girls’ basketball team entered Thursday night’s WPIAL Section 4-AA contest against Fort Cherry controlling its destiny.
A win would earn the Bucs a trip to the postseason.
Fort Cherry’s Jenna Lucas made sure that wouldn’t happen.
Lucas hit a three-pointer with just over 20 seconds remaining to give the Rangers a one-point lead then stepped to the free-throw line and calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to give Fort Cherry a 40-37 win, eliminating the Bucs from playoff contention.
“I always tell Jenna to be ready, because the ball is going to be in her hands late in games,” said Fort Cherry head coach Gary Kacsur. “She’s our best free-throw shooter and stepped up big time when we needed her.”
Chartiers-Houston (5-7, 12-8) came out slow as Fort Cherry (7-5, 12-6) went on an early 10-0 run to take control of the game, jumping to a 13-5 lead after the first quarter.
The Bucs gave a spirited effort at the defensive end of the floor and got back into the game in the second quarter, holding the Rangers scoreless for a six-minute span. But the Bucs were only able to score six points in that span, cutting the Fort Cherry lead to 13-11.
The Bucs couldn’t get over the hump though, and trailed 16-11 at the half.
One reason for Chartiers-Houston’s struggles was countless missed layups and struggles at the free-throw line, where the Bucs made only 8 of 19 attempts.
“We just don’t execute,” said Chartiers-Houston head coach Veronica Sansom. “Some of that can be put on inexperience, but we have to execute better. It’s disappointing.”
The Bucs held Fort Cherry in check to start the second half and crept back into the game, ultimately taking a 24-22 lead into the fourth quarter.
Rangers’ senior Rachel Bellhy was the Fort Cherry offense, scoring all but four of the Rangers second half points until Lucas’ late heroics. She led all scorers with 22 points.
In the process, Bellhy went over the 1,000-point mark for her career.
“She’s such a special player,” said Kacsur. “What’s more impressive is she has missed about 20 games in her career and still gets over 1,000 points.”
The game went back and forth in the fourth quarter with neither team leading by more than three points. Addy Knetzer, who led the Bucs with 11 points, and Bellhy exchanged baskets for the first half of the quarter.
Jala Youngblood gave the Bucs a 37-34 lead with a layup with just under two minutes remaining. Bellhy pulled the Rangers within one. C-H was unsuccessful at trying to run clock and left Fort Cherry enough time to strike.
The Bucs keyed on Bellhy leaving Lucas wide open on the perimeter to drain the game winner.
“I called a timeout because the exact same thing happened at Brentwood,” said Sansom. “But we didn’t take care of the ball again. I thought we did a decent job on Bellhy and Lucas all night, and the one time we needed to find Lucas, we didn’t. Give them credit, they shut down Addy for most of the game. We finished with a winning record, but it is disappointing not going to the playoffs.”
Fort Cherry improved its seeding with the win.
“It’s huge,” said Kacsur. “Now we are the (No. 3) seed. We didn’t want to go in as the four. Hopefully, we draw a better matchup.”