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Lourdes Regional seniors eye another state run

Mar. 6—Masie Reed moved around a wide corridor just outside of Montoursville High's gym, shuffling between poses for snapshots. The Lourdes Regional senior carried a sign commemorating her pursuit of 1,000 career points while four large gold balloons that once formed "1-0-0-0" became further separated amid the red-clad crowd.

Reed was awash in relief. Not only because she had achieved the individual scoring milestone — finishing with exactly 1,000 points in what could have been her final high school game — but mainly because the Red Raiders won the District 4 Class A third-place game to clinch a state tournament berth.

A year ago, she and many of her current teammates reached the state playoffs via the district consolation game and then marched all the way to the Class A championship game. So, for them, it was always more about reaching the destination rather than which path they took.

"We definitely wanted to just get there. It doesn't matter if we're first, second or third, obviously," Reed said after Thursday's 52-36 win over Bucktail. "You saw what happened last year. So it doesn't really matter, but now that we know we're locked-in, we're good.

"I think that takes a lot of pressure off of us."

You really can't fault the Red Raiders for believing they have the rest of the Class A girls tournament field right where they want them.

Last year's state final appearance was Lourdes' third since 2016 and the fifth in program history. The Red Raiders played as a district champion in only one of those five title games (2019), and they won their only state crown as the District 4 runner-up in 1994.

That's not to suggest they are lacking in the district championship department. No girls team has won more District 4 crowns than the Red Raiders' 12 since 1999. Mount Carmel won 11 in that span, while Central Columbia, Loyalsock and Southern Columbia each won six. However, the current five-year drought matched 2003-07 for the team's longest over the last three decades.

On Saturday afternoon, they'll step on the court at District 2 runner-up Susquehanna Community (7-16) with far more confidence than your typical third-place qualifier.

"There's a lot of expectations on us, so we just have to play our best," said Lourdes senior Leah Kosmer. "We're not going to have anything get handed to us."

Kosmer, Reed and classmate Paityn Moyer are four-year contributors who have led the team for the last three seasons. They are 54-28 overall since 2021-22, including 11-5 in the postseason. They were markedly upset after losing the 2022 district final to a Northumberland Christian squad that went on to win the state championship. They then lost district semifinals to St. John Neumann in consecutive seasons.

In last year's consolation game, Lourdes followed a five-point first quarter against North Penn-Liberty with a big surge over the middle quarters and ultimately won, 48-35, to qualify for states.

Last Thursday, the Red Raiders bolted to an eight-point lead after one quarter before slogging through a 1-for-15 shooting slump in the second that allowed Bucktail to draw within 20-15. The do-or-die situation brought out the seniors' best, and they closed with a 32-21 second half. They limited the Bucks to a 3-pointer on 1-of-9 shooting in the third quarter.

"It was kinda close, so we just wanted to put them away," said Reed, who scored 13 fourth-quarter points after missing her first 11 shots of the game. Two free throws with 41.5 seconds to play made her the program's 14th 1,000-point scorer, and first since Lilyauna Bickel in 2019.

Kosmer scored eight second-half points to tie Reed for the game-high of 15 and match her season-best total. An undersized post, Kosmer averaged 10.0 points in Lourdes' last five games to hike her season mark to 8.7 ppg. She was 3-for-5 in the first half, scoring seven points to buoy the Red Raiders (16-9).

"As games go on I'm definitely getting more confident," she said, "and, honestly, I don't want to lose. I don't want this to be over."

Cassidy Grimes, the other senior starter, added 12 points Thursday, including a pair of 3-pointers to go along with a team-high seven steals. She averaged 10.6 points over the last five games, boosting her season clip to 6.7 ppg.

That quartet — Grimes, Kosmer and all-state guards Moyer and Reed — makes Lourdes one of the most experienced teams on the Class A bracket.

The motivation that comes from each game possibly being the last?

That's new.

"I want to make it to (the state final) and I want to know that's my last game," Kosmer said. "I don't want to get cut in the state run; I want to go all the way and know it's my last game. So I'm just fighting as hard as I can."