Mar. 9—FOUNTAIN SPRINGS — Julia Roth was in the right place at the right time for Allentown Central Catholic.
Her putback of an offensive rebound just before the final buzzer ended North Schuylkill's season.
The Spartans, Schuylkill League Division I and overall champions, dropped a heartbreaker Monday night, falling 49-47 to the Vikettes in a District 11 Class 4A semifinal at Cesari-Hope Gymnasium.
North Schuylkill finishes with a 19-4 mark, while ACC (15-3) will play Thursday night against Jim Thorpe, a 62-41 winner over Northwestern Lehigh in the other semifinal, for the district gold.
As the finish and final score indicate, it was a battle to the end between ACC and the Spartans, who played the entire game without point guard and leading scorer Kamryn Mengel. Mengel sprained an ankle in a pre-game shootaround and was unavailable.
North Schuylkill led early, going up 9-0 in the first four minutes. ACC battled back, trailing 23-20 at the break, forging a 34-all deadlock after three quarters and taking its first lead of the game at 39-36 when senior Emily Vaughan buried a triple from the left wing at the 6:27 mark of the fourth.
"To be honest with you, I'm really proud of how hard our kids played," ACC coach Mike Kopp said. "But, at the same time, they (North Schuylkill) were missing one of their best players and I'm sure she would have made a difference."
Ultimately, the game came down to the final five seconds.
North Schuylkill, which trailed 47-42 with less than a minute to play, got it to 47-45 when Sarah Wagner followed a Vikette turnover with a trey from the left wing with 20 ticks remaining. North Schuylkill then forced a tie-up on the inbounds pass and, with the possession arrow favoring the Spartans, went on the offensive again.
This time, Wagner was fouled in the act of shooting and knocked down both free throws to knot the score 47-47 with 12 seconds remaining.
After Wagner's second make, ACC inbounded and got the ball across the center line before it was knocked out of bounds by the defense.
Five ticks now remained.
A jumper after the inbounds pass was off the mark, but Roth, who finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, was in the right place at the right time, grabbing the board and putting it in just before the final buzzer.
"We had a chance to get in control and win by about six or seven points there at the end and give them credit, they really busted their butts and they came back," Kopp said.
Wagner finished as North Schuylkill's scoring leader with 15 points. Sophomore Maddy Wetzel, who replaced Mengel at the point in the starting lineup, was strong all night, scoring seven and pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds while running the offense. Savannah Gawrylik followed Wagner with nine points and also was a big contributor on the boards with 11.
"When you get to this point in the season, both teams are always good," North Schuylkill coach Rich Wetzel said. "It's a scrap to the end, a 32-minute game.
"We did what we had to do to come back, even it up. Had a deflection down there, ball goes out of bounds, five seconds left, kid misses a shot, kid picks it up and puts it in.
Maddy Wetzel's 13 rebounds were a big part of the 34-24 advantage the Spartans held on the glass, a point not lost on the ACC coach.
"We were telling these kids, they rebound like no other team we play," Kopp said. "They just go after the ball.
"But, I think we showed a heck of a lot of heart, too. Emily Vaughan hit some big shots. We got down 9-0 and we got it to 23-20 and had a shot at the end of the first half to tie it up."
Vaughan, a senior, spent three seasons as the Vikettes' point guard but made the switch to shooting guard this season. She finished with a game-high 18 points, draining four triples, including two straight in the fourth quarter when ACC made its move into the lead.
"My kids played hard, they play hard all the time," Wetzel said. "I can't ask any more out of them than that.
"Both teams are good. It came down to that time, one way or the other and it bounced in for them."
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