After a very sloppy first quarter, Tussey Mountain’s girls picked up the pace in the second period of its PIAA Class 1A first-round matchup with District Six runnerup Purchase Line. The Titans led six at halftime, but the Red Dragons kept things close until Tussey pulled away in the fourth for a 56-38 victory.
The Titans (18-8), the District Five third-place finisher, will move into the second round against District Seven fourth-place finisher Vincentian Academy, a 48-46 overtime winner over Johnsonburg Saturday.
Purchase line finished its season with a 14-12 record.
“We didn’t play smart,” said Tussey coach Todd Gates. “We went on some runs, then we’d do something dumb. Our cross-court got us in trouble a lot.”
Tussey converted five of six free throws to lead 5-2 with 4:46 left in the opening period. Baskets by Emileigh Syster and Abigail Goss gave the Dragons a 6-5 lead, but Maddie Garner hit a free throw and Kailee Leonard made a layup to put the Titans up 8-6. Madison Scalese made a layup to tie the score at eight.
Leonard scored four for the Titans, as did Syster for Purchase Line to tie the score at 12 with 5:43 left in the half. Meghan Molosky hit a three-pointer from the corner and Lexi Weimert had a steal and layup to put Tussey up 17-13 and the Dragons never quite caught up.
Purchase lost the deficit to 23-22 on a putback by Bethany Smith, but Molosky added a trey to spark a 7-2 Titan run for a 30-24 lead at halftime.
Tussey hit just eight of 21 shots and turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, but the Dragons made just nine of 23 shots and were guilty of 15 give-aways.
It looked like the Titans would take command with a pair of layups to start the third quarter pushing their advantage to 34-24, but a 8-0 run by the Dragons brought them to withing two with a minute left in the period. Sophie Brumbaugh made a layup and two free throws in the final minute to give Tussey a 38-32 lead heading into the fourth period.
In the final quarter, Tussey became much more deliberate on offense, protecting a couple players in foul trouble and milking time off the clock.
A basket by Weimert and two by Leonard bumped the lead to 44-34, then the desperate Dragons were forced to foul. In the final 3:45, the Titans made 10 of 11 free throws to ice the victory. Molosky made six of six and Weimert four of five from the charity stripe during that run.
“When we changed to a more patient offense in the fourth quarter, but got some easy baskets,” said Gates. “I thought about doing that in the second quarter, but we went on a bit of a run and I didn’t want to kill our momentum. We talked about it at halftime, but decided to play it straight in the third quarter.”
Weimert was the leading score in the game, finishing with 20 points. Molosky added 12 and Leonard came off the bench to add another dozen. Tussey finished hitting 15 of 37 shots 41 percent. The Titans were guilty of 20 turnovers.
Addaleia Beer and Syster led the Dragons with 10 points apiece. Scalese finished with eight.
Purchase hurt itself by canning just 13 of 45 shots (29 percent) from the field and just 12 of 21 from the charity stripe. They also finished the day with 27 turnovers.
“The PIAA games are all so tough,” Gates concluded. “You have to appreciate any wins and cherish every moment.”