By Kim Staudinger
Everyone knows when two undefeated teams enter a tournament, only one of those teams will remain undefeated.
The Big Sandy Pioneers knew this, but they didn't want to believe it. Awaiting the much-anticipated matchup Saturday night with top-ranked Chester, the Pioneers forgot they had to play another number one team in Belt before they could advance to the championship game.
In a game that saw six lead changes in the first quarter, Big Sandy knew the task ahead would not be as easy as hoped.
Belt came out of the first eight minutes of play with a 16-12 lead, a lead that only once faltered. Big Sandy tied the game at 53 with four minutes remaining in the game, but Belt junior Hallie McCafferty took the game into her own hands. The 5-foot-8 post player scored five points in the last four minutes, guiding her team to the 62-57 upset over Big Sandy.
"We've been dreaming of winning for so long," McCafferty, who led all scorers with 22 points, said amidst the celebration after the game. "It was kind of a shock. I thought we played great. We were just hoping for the best. We knew we had to play hard and we did."
Knowing they needed to do something, the only rally the Pioneers could muster came mid-way through the fourth quarter as Belt had taken a 51-43 lead. Katherine Bitz and Lindsey Danreuther hit back-to-back three-point shots, cutting the lead to 51-49.
Following the two three-pointers, senior Amy Silvan had a chance to tie the game, getting fouled on a lay-up. But, Silvan missed her first free throw, leaving the Huskies clinging to a one-point lead. Silvan redeemed herself seconds later, hitting a three-point shot to tie the game.
Despite tough pressure from the Pioneers, Belt did not falter and escaped with the 62-57 victory to advance to the championship game.
"Beating a team like Big Sandy is kind of a dream," Belt coach Bruce Keaster said, commenting his guards on their refusal to crack under pressure. "Our motto for the year was refuse to lose and, boy, our kids did that tonight. We bent a few times, but we didn't break.
"I am usually one of the last ones to leave the gym anyhow, but I might just sleep here tonight."
16 15 18 13 62
Big Sandy 12 12 19 14 57
Belt Molly Sweeney 6, Justine Larson 2, Laura Keaster 13, Hallie McCafferty 22, Megan Wichman 10, Anna Burnham 9.
Big Sandy Ashley Goodian 9, Katherine Bitz 13, Sheena Darlington 11, Lindsey Danreuther 15, Amy Silvan 9.