BY MARTY MYERS
Montrose’s star shined brighter.
In a battle between two of the state’s best, Dallas Ely hit two free throws with 13.5 seconds left to rally the Lady Meteors from a fourth-quarter deficit for the second straight game, shocking Sierra Moore and Delone Catholic, 52-50, Friday night atHamburgAreaHigh School.
The victory sends Montrose to the state semifinals for the first time. The Lady Meteors will face District 3 champ York Catholic, a 70-67 winner overMount Carmel, in Tuesday’s Class AA showdown for a trip to the PIAA title game. Results were not available at press time.
“I never dreamed of this,” said Ely, who scored 27, dished six assists and made five steals. “To be from Montrose and do this, it’s amazing.”
Montrose, which trailed by eight in the fourth quarter Tuesday, trailed by six with just over five minutes to go against Delone, led by Duke recruit Moore, who finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
But it was Ely who stole the show down the stretch. Drawing contact while shooting a 3, she made all the free throws to cut the margin to 42-39. Four more foul shots – she hit her final 15 at the line and 16 of 18 – sliced the margin to a point with four minutes to go.
“We’ve got a lot of heart,” Montrose coach Al Smith said. “We got down and we don’t give up. We do not give up. For a Division I player to be on the floor, I thought our girls did a great job.
“Nicki Lewis did a nice job trying to contain her. She scored some points, but in all honesty, we kept her in check.”
Moorekept catching lobs over the top and driving for scores and Montrose still trailed by a point until Ely stole a pass intended forMooreand fed Meghan Gilhool, whose layup hung in the rim for what seemed like an eternity before falling through for a 49-48 lead with1:36to play.
Then Lewis created a held ball for a steal, and with 26 seconds left, hit the first of two free throws for a 50-48 lead.
“Our goal was to kind of get in (Moore’s) head, to make her mad,” Lewis said. “I tried my best to frustrate her. Sometimes I can be good at that.”
ButMoore’s pretty good, too, and her coast-to-coast drive for a left-handed layup tied it with 18 seconds to play.
Cue Ely, guarded byMoorefor the first time in the game, for more heroics.
“I knew she was defending me,” said Ely, who drove the length of the floor before drawing contact fromMoorein the paint. “So I tried to keep it in my left hand and at the end go back and go up strong and try to draw the foul.
“They gave me the lane. I knew I could get to the line if I kept going at it. I knew if I laid it up she was going to swat it, so I went up with both hands, pretty much hoping to draw the foul.”
She swished both shots, sending the large and boisterous Montrose following into a frenzy. And whenMoorewas bumped by a teammate and lost the handle before launching an off-balance, way-off-target 25-footer at the buzzer, Montrose had a second-straight stunner and its 25th consecutive win.
“I wasn’t going to let free throws stand between us and moving on to the next game,” Ely said. “It’s a free throw. They’re giving them to you. You’ve got to make them. Especially in crunch time with everyone looking up to you. I was ready for it.”
So were her teammates. Every player on the court made a fourth-quarter contribution, with Sara Krupinski posting a bucket, two boards, a steal and a block. She finished with eight points and eight rebounds, three nights after an elbow sliced open her forehead, forcing to miss the final 13½ minutes.
“It’s better than two (points) and a busted head,” Krupinski said. “I can’t wait. It’s amazing. It’s likeDunmorelast year.
“Dallas and I were watching that game and we were saying we want that to be us next year. We’re almost there. We can taste it.”