Greenwood girls make state semis for first time since 1987

Mar. 16—HARRISBURG — "Party Rock Anthem" boomed from inside their locker room as the Greenwood girls joined in a singalong. A throwback celebration tune for a team that couldn't have harmonized much better while playing strong old-school defense Saturday.

The Wildcats smothered once-beaten Linville Hill on the perimeter, diffusing the Warriors' explosive long-range game while building a 17-point lead. Greenwood then weathered a late-game run with some of its best foul shooting of the season, and pulled a seismic upset in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals, 43-34, at Central Dauphin East H.S.

"It's so exciting. It almost feels like a dream," said Leah Ritzman, who scored a game-high and personal postseason-best 19 points. "I'm just so glad it's my senior year, and I'm still continuing to be able to play."

Sophie Myers backed Ritzman with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and the Wildcats forced 13 turnovers while hounding Linville Hill into 27% shooting to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1987.

"You get to this point you gotta play defense, and our girls are defending," said Greenwood coach Jeff Deitz. "We've been telling these girls from Day One, 'You can be very good defensively.' We're doing it. We're defending at a state level.

"I'm so proud of these kids."

After losing by three points in the District 3 semifinals and missing a chance to meet Linville Hill for the title — ultimately settling for fourth place — Greenwood ended the first-time champion Warriors' 19-game winning streak with a near wire-to-wire victory.

"Coming into this, people might have not thought that we could have won this," said sophomore Danica Zurenko, "but I think as long as we know what we need to do and we get it done, that's all we need to do.

"I think we can do anything we put our minds to."

The Wildcats (18-11) will play District 2 champion Mountain View (23-4) on Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. Mountain View topped District 4 champion St. John Neumann, 42-30, in Saturday's quarters. Bishop Guilfoyle and Williamsburg play a rematch of the District 6 final in Tuesday's other state semifinal. The Class A championship is Friday.

"It's amazing," said junior Morgan Hale, who hit 5 of 6 free throws to boost the team's 17-for-26 effort. "We're the underdog coming in and just going on our runs. We're practicing hard; the energy is great in practices; (and) the coaching staff is phenomenal. It just feels amazing."

Linville Hill, which hadn't lost since Jan. 3 at Kennard-Dale, finished the season 26-2.

"I think from the beginning of the game we just knew we had to have no fear; we couldn't be scared of them at all," said Ritzman. "So we just kept that mentality through the entire game."

The Warriors buried 10 3-pointers in Wednesday's second-round win over Lourdes Regional, with sophomore Courtney Good canning a program record seven triples. On Saturday, they were 0-for-8 from distance in the first half while Greenwood forged an 11-point lead. Linville finished 3-of-24 from beyond the arc, with Good going 0-for-8.

"Defend the line, right? It was no secret," Deitz said. "We've watched these guys, and we know they like to shoot it. (Smucker) is a good shooter; (Good) is a good shooter; (and junior guard Abrielle Fisher) will throw them up. So the game plan was really similar to what it was with Meadowbrook: You had to chase shooters. And I think we did.

"Very few times can I think of a time where a girl caught a ball, lined it up and let one fly. Those attempts were limited."

Linville junior Desiree Smucker missed six first-half 3s, then drilled three in a span of six possessions that bridged the third and fourth quarters and helped the Warriors slash the 31-14 deficit they faced with 2:26 to play in the third. By the 2:08 mark of the fourth, after a string of four Greenwood turnovers, Linville pulled within 37-34.

Bekah Brinser, Ritzman and Zurenko all hit pairs of free throws in the final 77 seconds to stop the Warriors run.

"We knew they were going to hit a run at some point ... but in our timeouts, all of our girls were confident and talked through it," said Myers. "We kept ourselves composed, and we fought through it. I think that's one of our biggest strengths."

Myers scored in double figures just twice all season, but she scored at least 10 for the third consecutive game Saturday and has a 12.7 points per game average in states. Her step-back 3-pointer from the top of the key midway through the first quarter gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead they never surrendered.

Ritzman scored six points in the second quarter; Myers added another 3-pointer; and Hale came off the bench to hit 3 of 4 free throws for a team that had shot 37% percent from the line in six previous postseason games. Greenwood's 65.4% clip from the line included an 8-of-12 showing in the fourth quarter.

"It was definitely huge," said Hale, who made it 23-12 at the half with a foul shot. "I try to take that deep breath, clear everything out (because) we need those free points."

Zurenko, who helped hold Meadowbrook all-stater Kailey Devlin to 12 points on Wednesday, kept Smucker to four first-half points on 2-of-10 shooting. Smucker's second-half 3s gave her a team-high 13 points.

"In both games I was really just trying to stay on my girl, Zurenko said. "If she gets by me, just back to her, and if she scores, just clear my mind and get back on her next time."

Ritzman was 7-for-11 from the field, and her foul line jumper late in the third made it 29-12 as the Warriors opened the half 0-for-8 with three turnovers.

"It was really great to see that success from the defense," said Myers. "We had a similar game plan to Meadowbrook, so that helped with the preparation. A lot of hedging and a lot of communication — it was probably the most advanced defense that we played throughout the season — and it worked out for us."




At Central Dauphin East H.S., Harrisburg


Greenwood (18-11) 43

Sophie Myers 3 2-2 10, Danica Zurenko 1 2-4 4, Bekah Brinser 1 2-2 4, Sophia Jezewski 0 1-4 1, Leah Ritzman 7 5-8 19, Morgan Hale 0 5-6 5. Totals 12 17-26 43.

3-point goals: Myers 2.

Did not score: Sylvia Gantt.

Linville Hill (26-2) 34

Courtney Good 1 0-0 2, Ellie Rishel 4 1-2 9, Desiree Smucker 5 0-0 13, Carissa Mulder 1 0-0 2, Abrielle Fisher 3 0-0 6, Payton Smucker 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 1-2 34.

3-point goals: D. Smucker 3.

Did not score: Leah Kurtz.

Score by quarters

Greenwood;9;14;10;10 — 43

Linville Hill;6;6;8;14 — 34