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Greenwood overcomes foul shooting woes to make state quarters

Mar. 15—Jeff Deitz gritted his teeth, and coached the last few minutes of Wednesday's state playoff game by the book.

Meadowbrook Christian was on fire, all but erasing Greenwood's 10-point lead, and Deitz's girls tried to regroup during a timeout.

"You gotta keep playing defense because you gotta stop the run," Deitz said of his message. "We needed to take care of the ball better, and we needed to get into that position where they would foul us and get to the line and make free throws."

That is the strategy suggested in the book of conventional basketball wisdom.

Had he consulted his own scorebook, though, Deitz may have been convinced to try something else.

The Wildcats are — how would you say it — a poor foul shooting team. They've made slightly more than half of their free throws this season, and they've been borderline abysmal in the playoffs (37%). In six postseason games, they hit 50% from the line only once — and by the slimmest of margins (8-of-15 in the District 3 Class A third-place game loss).

"Believe me, (the foul line) has been a worrisome place for us through the district tournament," Deitz said. "I don't know what they were (Wednesday), but I do know that when we needed to make them, we made them tonight."

When told the Wildcats shot 11-of-21 in the PIAA second-round victory, Deitz replied, "I'll take it," with the tone of someone grateful his parachute opened after jumping out of perfectly good airplane.

As you might expect, Greenwood's free throws added some drama to the end-game sequence.

Wildcats junior Bekah Brinser went to the foul line four times in the final 70 seconds after District 4 runner-up Meadowbrook had pulled within 35-32. She made one of two shots in three of the trips, but she missed both looks immediately after the Lions converted a three-point play for a 38-35 margin.

Meadowbrook missed a potential tying 3-pointer but grabbed the offensive rebound. Greenwood's Danica Zurenko made a steal near the sideline, and Brinser made a foul shot for a four-point lead the Lions couldn't close despite Greenwood hitting 3-of-6 in the last 28 seconds. Sophie Myers made the second of two fouls with 1 second to play for the 41-36 win.

"It's definitely a love-hate relationship," said Brinser, "because I know the past few days at practice I've been hitting all my foul shots and then I get here and I'm missing them."

Greenwood's top four scorers are all uncannily close to 50% foul shooters. Leah Ritzman (51%) and Sophia Jezewski (49%) are the team's lone seniors. Myers (50%) and Brinser (49%) are juniors.

For the season, the Wildcats have made 169 of 320 fouls (52.8%), but that clip plummeted to 37% in the postseason (33-of-89). Remarkably, they've hit only 33% in their four playoff wins (22 of 66), including an ugly 4-of-22 showing in a 31-27 win over No. 2 seed Lancaster Country Christian in the District 3 quarterfinals.

"We shoot foul shots every day at practice, and it's like I think whenever we get in a game our minds are elsewhere," Brinser said. "I know I'm always thinking about the next play on the line. I'm thinking, Oh, Sophia needs to be doing this, or Leah needs to be doing that. I think sometimes I look focus on taking the actual foul shot."

Greenwood's attention should be devoted to once-beaten Linville Hill in today's state quarterfinal, 1 p.m. at Central Dauphin East H.S. The Warriors (26-1), two-time reigning Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference champions, have won 19 consecutive games, including the program's first District 3 championship. They were district runners-up last season.

Linville is led by junior forward Desiree Smucker (15.2 ppg.) and sophomore guard Courtney Good (13.3), who drilled a team-record seven 3-pointers among her game-high 23 points in Wednesday's 47-27 win over Lourdes Regional. The Warriors have only one senior, Carissa Mulder, a center who averages 2.6 ppg.

"We have them scouted pretty well already because we kind of expected a matchup with them. So we're familiar," said Deitz. "We'll be excited to go play Linville. We told (the girls) in the locker room, That's a game we wanted, so now we have a chance to go get it.

"We're going to practice hard ... and we're going to go play basketball again. That's awesome. To play basketball in March is fantastic."

Ritzman leads the Wildcats at 11.9 ppg. — she had 10 in the second half Wednesday — and Brinser at 7.4. They both had 12 against Meadowbrook. Jezewski and Myers average 6.2 and 4.7 points, respectively, although Myers has scored 28 points in two state games.

This is Greenwood's first state quarterfinal game since the team played in three consecutive seasons (2001-03). The Wildcats last appeared in the state semis in 1987.

"I'm really excited because we had an opportunity to play (Linville) in the district championship but we lost to Mount Calvary in the semifinals," said Brinser. "We were really, really excited to have a chance to play (the District 3 final) at the Giant Center, and we didn't get that opportunity. So we're definitely really excited to play them.

"If we can get a win, that would just feel really, really good for us that we know we could have played against them well at the Giant Center."