Sienna Wilson (Left) and Jess Hawbaker (Center) defending a Central Bucks West player neat midcourt.
Sienna Wilson (Left) and Jess Hawbaker (Center) defending a Central Bucks West player neat midcourt.
Noah Radio

Girls’ Basketball Team Takes Second in Tournament

During the first week of December, high school hoops returned to State High’s North Gym. The girls’ basketball team opened up the season on Dec. 5 with a non-conference win over Loyalsock, but the main attraction was the Skip Coleman Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 8 and 9.

The girls’ basketball team placed second in the tournament with a win on Friday over Central Bucks West and a narrow loss in the championship to Spring-Ford. On Friday night, the future of State High girls basketball was brightened by great performances from twin freshmen Sienna and Sheree Wilson. Sienna scored 20 points en route to being named to the All-Tournament Team.

CB West fell behind early, scoring just three points in the first quarter to State High’s 13. The Wilson twins were on full display in the opening period, scoring 10 of the 13 points. After Sheree was subbed in just three minutes into the game, she blocked a shot on the defensive end and assisted on her sister’s fast break layup which brought the raucous crowd to its feet.

State High head coach Alli Mock has experience with playing freshmen right when they join the team. After the game against CB West, she said about the Wilson twins, “I think they’re taking everything that’s being thrown at them right now, and they’re battling through it. I’m pleased with what they’ve put on the court so far in the two games they’ve played.”

As opposed to previous seasons, the stands filled up for more for the girls game than the State High boys game that preceded it. There was clearly more energy in the gym, especially when the crowd would start chants or the Little Lions would go on a run of fast breaks.

The hot shooting would cool off for the Little Lions in the second quarter and without it they were unable to maintain the lead. The Little Lions went on a seven minute scoring drought to begin the second quarter and CB West capitalized on every mistake, racking up 14 points in the quarter.

State High also fell victim to foul trouble, with returning scoring leader Diana Tsarnakova picking up her third personal foul and Sheree Wilson picking up her second. Sophomore Kenna Whitehurst made sure the team was not shut out in the entire quarter with four points in the last minute, but State High and CB West still went into halftime tied at 17.

Mock thought the team came out a little slow in the first half, but after she challenged them at halftime they leaned into their new identity of fast breaks and running in transition.

To begin the second half, the game continued back and forth as sophomore center Lydia Tate picked up her third personal foul. With 2:30 to play in the low-scoring third quarter, CB West was ahead 22-21 when State High turned it on.

Sienna Wilson knocked down a three off a wrap-around pass from senior guard Carley Donnell and the break was on. Shots from Tsarnakova, junior Tori Risha, and the Wilson twins powered a 14-1 run that had the crowd loud and on their feet. A timeout from CB West did nothing to relax the gym as Sienna Wilson stole a pass immediately and junior Jess Hawbaker converted on the fast break layup.

The third quarter came to a close with State High ahead 35-23, and the game was never close again. Strong plays from Whitehurst and the Wilson twins, among others, kept the State High lead above five the rest of the way, and the Little Lions came out with a 46-36 win.

Mock was extremely proud of the group after the game, especially for leaning into their identity of getting out in transition and pushing the pace.

The championship game didn’t go as smoothly for the Mock’s group. They quickly went down 8-0 before Donnell knocked down her first of five three-pointers in the game. Spring-Ford held a wire-to-wire lead, but State College was able to keep the game close at points with clutch shots.

Just one minute into the second half, Donnell took a kick out from Tate and made a three-pointer right in front of the State High bench to cut the lead to four, 27-23, and get everyone back into the game.

The Little Lions had the lead down to four again with 2:06 to play in the game, but a turnover and quick Spring-Ford layup ensured that was the closest the game would get. The team was also at a disadvantage when Tsarnakova exited the game after what was described by junior guard Annika Bechtel as, “splitting her eyebrow open,” which required stitches.

Jess Hawbaker’s control of both the offensive and defensive ends of the court were huge reasons why State High was able to remain competitive, and why she was named to the All-Tournament team, joining Sienna Wilson.

While the team did fall to Altoona on Tuesday night, albeit without Tsarnakova, the future is bright for this State High group. After Friday’s game against CB West, Mock said, “I feel that this group, because of our ability to get out and run and our athleticism, can run with anybody in the state” She went on the mention that the little things like boxing out and securing rebounds would be key in the development of the team and how far they can go this season.

The Little Lions (2-2) are back in action on Friday, Dec. 15 at home for a Mid-Penn tilt with the Central Dauphin Rams, looking to pick up their first conference win.

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