Pennsy shooters lead the way in Senior Classic girls win  Portville's Bentley scores game-high as NY falls 84-66

Pennsy shooters lead the way in Senior Classic girls win Portville's Bentley scores game-high as NY falls 84-66

By: Vinny Pezzimenti | Olean Times Herald | March 25, 2024 | Photo courtesy Paul Burdick

PORTVILLE - During a first half timeout, Pennsylvania coach Tom Harpst could be heard saying, "When in doubt, shoot the ball."

The PA players showed little doubt and had much success when firing away at the basket. They confidently shot their way to an 84-66 victory over New York on Sunday afternoon in the Big 30 Senior Basketball Classic girls' all-star game at Portville Central School.

Pennsy scored inside and out and led for all but two minutes after the New Yorkers tied it early.

"If I had to pick one thing, it's great to have a group of girls that can shoot the basketball," said Harpst, the former Coudersport girls' coach and athletic director. "That makes up for a lot of ills when you can shoot the ball and make the ball."

Smethport's Elizabeth Hungiville and St. Marys' Jayssa Snelick netted 15 points apiece to lead PA, which claimed its first victory in the game since 2015.

Elk County Catholic's Sydney Alexander chipped in 13 points and Ridgway's Jenna Kasmierski 11 over the course of the 40-minute contest. Hungiville also grabbed nine rebounds and Kamierski and Warren's Emily Mourer had eight each.

ECC's Sami Straub (9 points, 4 assists, two steals) and Warren's Sammie Ruhlman (7 rebounds, 4 assists) also keyed Pennsy.

"It was just a matter of letting them play," Harpst said of the PA seniors. "I was very impressed with their fundamentals, their footwork, their ability to pass the ball, their understanding of the game. It's a tribute to the coaches they've had over the years and the success they've had."

Portville's Lillly Bentley led New York with 17 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots while Genesee Valley/Belfast's Mary Hamer added nine points and Ellicottville's Dalaya Alexander eight.

Alexander also contributed three steals and six rebounds, while Friendship/Scio's Naveah Ross dished out five assists. Hamer and Portville's Jackie Scanlon collected five rebounds apiece.

"The kids were great. They were all so coachable," said New York's Allan Dunlap, the former Franklinville coach. "They were pulling for each other the entire game, no matter what the score was. It was a pleasure to be around them. There's a reason why those kids are playing in this game."

Pennsy took command in the first half thanks to a 17-7 run that included consecutive 3-pointers from Kasmierski. Of PA’s eight 3-pointers, Kasmierski and Snelick canned three each.

PA took a 47-29 advantage into halftime and led by as many as 37.

"I didn't realize how good they were, I hadn't seen any of these girls play. None of them," said Harpst, who now lives in Greenville, Pennsylvania. "I had no prior knowledge, other than what people had told me."

"They hustled. They worked. They were willing to sacrifice for each other, even though they hadn't played together as a team," he added. "They were looking to pass the ball. They passed up some shots that I thought they should have taken. That's a credit to them."

Harpst left Coudersport in 2001 after leading the Falcons to eight District 9 titles and a 294-50 record over 12 seasons. The soon-to-be 80 year old retired from coaching in 2018 after 50 years in basketball, softball, football and golf.

New York closed the gap in the final 10 minutes thanks to a 13-4 run.

Dunlap, who retired in 2020 after guiding the Franklinville girls to a pair of state championship game appearances, thought the PA side was "very talented" - and big, with five players 5-foot-10 or taller.

"When I first saw their size I thought they were a very tall team," he said. "I felt like we were more guard oriented, although we have a couple of taller kids. It was a tale of two teams as far as that goes. They did a nice job of moving the ball and finishing shots. I don't know what they shot percentage-wise, but it felt like they shot it pretty well."

Dunlap said he "had a ball" being on the sideline again, adding: "It's all the other things that go along with coaching that you don't miss. It felt great to be out there with great players and a group of people who love basketball as much as I do."

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