Feb. 28—WINDBER — Defense became a point of emphasis for Windber ahead of the WestPAC Championship game after its narrow 47-45 loss to Shanksville last Saturday.
The Ramblers earned a chance to redeem themselves, and made the most of it.
Gina Gaye had a team-high 11 points, Amanda Cominsky added nine points and nine rebounds, and Windber held Shanksville to its lowest scoring output all season in a 44-31 victory, which gave the Ramblers their second conference title in three seasons.
"They came through together as a team," Windber coach Cory Pavlosky said about his squad after it won the third WestPAC Championship in school history.
"I'm so proud of them. It was a heck of a defensive effort. I think our defense came through and rattled them a lot."
Windber forced 21 turnovers, including nine in the second quarter, and limited Shanksville to five points apiece in the second and fourth quarters.
Rylee Ott led the defensive show with six steals.
The Ramblers (17-1) led for the majority of the second half, and went on an 8-0 burst in the final two minutes to put the game away.
Gaye, who missed most of her sophomore season because of an ACL injury, said the win is more special after being unsure whether there would be a season at all with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It means the world," Gaye said. "Our whole team, we worked so hard the whole season, especially when we had those three weeks where our season was delayed. We were worried if we were even going to have a season. We just came in and worked our butts off every day."
Meanwhile, Josie Snyder and Rylee Snyder scored 13 points apiece for the Vikings as they fell in the WestPAC title game for the third consecutive year.
Shanksville struggled mightily to get open looks, and even when it did, the shots just did not fall.
The Vikings (18-4) shot just 6 of 22 from the field in the first half.
"We weren't doing the little things to create space to get us open, because they were forcing us out of where we wanted to be," said Shanksville coach Robert Snyder. "They dictated the tempo and pace."
Shanksville went into the fourth down by six, but never gained any positive momentum in the final quarter to cut into that deficit.
"That's a credit to their (the Ramblers) defense," Snyder said about how frustrating it was offensively for his team. "We could've been a little more composed. We could have taken care of the ball a little better, which led to some easy points for them. This is totally Windber's win."
After being down 12-8 after the first quarter, Windber doubled up Shanksville in the second to go into halftime with an 18-17 advantage.
The Ramblers extended their lead in the third quarter by turning defense into offense.
For Pavlosky, the extra effort on the defensive end made all the difference down the stretch.
"On film, we're going to look at diving on the floor for loose balls, tipping balls away, helping on defense with deflections," Pavlosky said. "Those are the small things that we try to emphasize. We made a lot of hustle plays."
Both teams now turn their attention to the district playoffs, which open next week.
Shanksville will look to become a back-to-back District 5 Class A champion after winnings its first title since 1978 last season.
Meanwhile, Windber will attempt to add another District 5 Class AA to its collection after falling to Everett in the title game the past two years.