Allied News Staff Writer
At Farrell’s E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the Blue Darlings defeated Mercer for the 3rd time this season, 48-29, thereby, Sharpsville secured a PIAA playoff berth as the district’s 3rd seed.
“Wow, this feels great!” admitted veteran Sharpsville skipper Jeff Hanley. “We had a couple nice practices after we lost to North East (42-38 in the semifinals), and I was proud with how they responded.
“The girls were confident, and they were led by our seniors. ... They played great defense (coercing 18 Mercer miscues) and followed what we wanted to do on offense really well,” Hanley added.
One of Hanley’s senior stalwarts, McKenzie Popatak, produced a game-high 30-point, 11-rebound double-double.
From the paint Popatak pumped in 10 first-period points while Mercer made 7 miscues and missed 8 of 10 floor shots, as Sharpsville surged to a 15-5 lead. With Popatak producing 8 second-period points and Mercer mustering only 2 — the Lady M’s drought lasted approximately 10 minutes, as Megan McKinney scored with 68 seconds remaining to intermission — the Blue Darlings derived a 23-7 halftime bulge.
Popatak and Megan Davis, with 8 and 6 points, respectively, staked Sharpsville to a 37-20 lead through 3 quarters, though Lexie Arkwright annexed 6 of her team-high 14 points. Arkwright added 10 rebounds for a double-double.
In addition to Popatak, Davis drilled 2 treys and scored 9 points while snaring 7 caroms; Paige Scurpa — whose defense limited leading scorer Arkwright to 3 first-half points on only 4 shots — and Madison Przicina evenly divided a dozen re-
bounds, and Natalie Henwood handed out 7 assists. Scurpa added 3, also.
Sharpsville (17-8) started the season 2-5, but Hanley assessed,
“We felt pretty good. The start wasn’t important. The first region (2-AA) game was Middlesex, and that was the important thing. Once we got rolling in our region and felt more confident and comfortable, I thought we were in good shape.”
The Blue Darlings have won 15 of their last 18 outings.
Meanwhile, Mercer (17-8) made a complete turnabout from last season. Second-year Lady’s M mentor Aaron Cook said,
“I gotta give it to Sharps-ville; they outplayed us in every aspect. But the bottom line is I am not disappointed at all. We went from 6-16 to 17-8, and the transformation was unbelievable!. It happened in the offseason.
“The future’s bright for us. If we work hard, we’re gonna give people some fits next year,” Cook confided, noting he loses a pair of seniors in Ashley Ryder and Analise Whenry.
“Analise Whenry was absolutely dynamic. I had her the last two years — same with Ashley Ryder. Ashley played very consistent, and Analise played big for us, ’cause we didn’t have height. Both of them had to be our height and our strength, and we’re gonna miss ’em next year because of that,” Cook praised.
SHARPSVILLE 15 8 14 11 48
MERCER 5 2 13 9 29
SHARPSVILLE — Henwood 1-1-4-3, Davis 3-1-1-9, Popatak 13-2-4-30, Scurpa 0-3-4-3, Przicina 1-1-2-3, Kurelko 0-0-1-0, Davies 0-0-0-0, Sloan 0-0-0-0, Schell 0-0-0-0, Falconi 0-0-0-0, Shoemaker 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Davis 2, Popatak 2. Totals: 18-8-16-48.
MERCER — Arkwright 4-5-7-14, Cook 1-0-0-3, Ryder 0-0-0-0, Mills 1-0-0-2, Whenry 0-0-2-0, Angermeier 1-1-2-3, McKinney 2-1-2-5, Zacherl 0-0-0-0, Fisher 0-0-0-0, Ferguson 0-1-2-1, Garrett 0-0-0-0, Shoemaker 0-1-2-1, McCann 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Arkwright 1, Cook 1. Totals: 9-9-17-29.