By Matt Popchock
Rivalry games tend to bring out the best in everyone. Mount Lebanon head coach Dori Oldaker doesn’t need a history lesson to tell her that.
“Bethel Park is a tough place to come and get a ‘W,’ regardless of its record. What I was really impressed with was our heart and our hustle,” Oldaker said.
Thursday’s contest certainly brought out the best in Bethel Park senior guard Candace Martino, but it brought out just a little bit more in the bell cow of Oldaker’s starting five, senior guard Madison Cable.
“It’s really hard to win here,” Cable agreed. “I liked the fight in our team.”
A Notre Dame commit and one of the most sought-after players in the nation at her position, Cable chipped in 19 points, not to mention five rebounds, to help the No. 1 Blue Devils (8-1, 13-5) hang on for a 43-37 win over the Lady Hawks (8-2, 15-3) at Bethel Park High School.
“Once Madison gets hot, and her supporting cast gets ready to go, things usually start rolling for us,” Oldaker said, “and our defense picked up [in the second half].”
Martino led all with 20 points and also grabbed six boards, but she couldn’t keep Lebo from prevailing in this battle of the Post-Gazette’s top two girls’ Class AAAA squads and clinging to the top spot in Section 4 as well. Bethel’s six-game winning streak ended, while the visitors extended theirs to ten.
“She’s a great player, and she’s going to do well in college,” Oldaker said of Martino, who has committed to Akron. “Madison and her match up pretty well together, and she’s not easy to defend, but Madison did a great job on her.”
The first quarter was a mixed bag for Cable and the Blue Devils. She and her teammates were inconsistent from the floor, but she still managed six first-quarter points to stake Mount Lebanon to an 11-5 lead after one.
In the second quarter offense continued not to come easily for the second-most prolific scoring bunch in Quad-A, as Bethel Park’s 2-3 zone forced more turnovers and missed shots, and the Hawks got their fast-break game going by finding Martino. She made three buckets in succession and ended the first half with 11 points, trimming the deficit to 20-15 at the half.
Martino hit the first of her three second half three-pointers, Kara Rayburn added another, and the Lady Hawks wouldn’t go away. But great defensive work by junior swingman Emma Pellicano, who finished with ten points and eight rebounds, paved the way for Cable to start attacking the glass. She hit Lebo’s only three-pointer of the night while the Blue Devils opened up a 35-25 lead.
Bethel’s defense entered the game ranked number one in the classification, and it kept the Hawks from falling completely apart, as Lebo managed just one field goal in the fourth quarter. But Mount Lebanon’s man-to-man defense withstood a late charge by Bethel Park, which had made it a one-point game on multiple occasions, and Cable made four critical free throws.
“Things were getting out of control, so we just tried to slow the game down,” Cable said.
“It shows that every game in our section is a tough one, and you have to come prepared every night.”
(UPDATE: Mount Lebanon defeated Peters Township Monday, while Bethel Park beat Canon-McMillan that night after a win over Class AAA Thomas Jefferson Friday.)
For continuing coverage of WPIAL basketball, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2010-11 season!