For the first time since the 1997-98 season, the Ellwood City girls basketball team has reached the playoffs.
The Lady Wolverines traveled to New Castle on Thursday for the deciding game. With four conference wins and seven losses, the team was tied with Hopewell for the 4th playoff spot. If they lost and Hopewell won its game against Central Valley, the playoff dream would be over.
Raising the stakes, the Wolverines barely won its last game against the Hurricanes, 49-43, played on Jan. 12.
The first quarter was slow, with just 10 points total- six for Ellwood and four for New Castle. In the second quarter, tensions rose when New Castle pulled ahead 10-5.
“It was a slow start at the beginning,” head coach Jolene Servick said. “Shaky first half, but the girls came though.”
The Lady Wolverines did indeed come through in the second half, obliterating New Castle 16-6 and 22-13 with senior Bailey McKinney leading the offense with 15 total points.
“McKinney keeps her composure,” Servick said. “She’s been a leader all season.”
Junior Karington Ketterer, known as one of the team’s best scorers, had a difficult time for the first half, but like the rest of the team, came through with 12 points.
However, credit belongs to the entire team, which was able to coordinate an aggressive defense and split the points. Jocelyn Guy had 10, Allie McKelvey, 7 and Cortni Prine, 5.
For New Castle, Freshman standout Carmie Matarazzo gave the Wolverines a fight with 13 points.
With a victory now secured, the Wolverines can celebrate a successful, progressive season. As Hopewell also won, there will be five teams in the playoffs.
“It’s a lot of relief,” Servick said. “Our main goal since training in the summer was to make the playoffs. I’m so proud of these girls, and now we’ll see where it goes.”
Thursday’s win will have repercussions beyond this season. As McKinney and Katelyn Wardmann are the only seniors, the team will be poised for greater success next year.
“Now that they’ve won and know what it’s like and experienced the thrill, the team will want that success again,” Servick said. “And the younger grades look up to these girls. They’re an inspiration. This is why you play high school sports.”
Bailey McKinney 5 5-6 15
Karington Ketterer 3 6-13 12
Allie McKelvey 2 3-6 7
Emily Brown 0 0-0 0
Jocelyn Guy 3 4-6 10
Katelyn Wardman 0 0-0 0
Cortni Prine 0 5-6 5.
Totals: 13 23-37 49.
Carmie Matarazzo 5 2-2 13
Jaidyn Eggleston 1 2-2 4
Jamay Walker 0 2-2 2
Jasmine Evans 0 0-0 0
Skylar Duffee 0 2-2 2
Abba Frengel 2 2-3 7
Kennedy Hudson 1 2-2 4
Tanai Brothers 0 1-1 1
Miranda Sadler 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 9 13-14 33.
3-point goals — New Castle 2 (Matarazzo 1, Frengel 1).