Mountain Ridge comes back to beat Allegany, 51-49, in region semifinals

Mar. 2—FROSTBURG — For more than three quarters, a mostly subdued Mountain Ridge crowd pined for a reason, any reason, to erupt — they had no trouble finding inspiration in the decider.

With a spot in the region final on the line, Allegany nearly led wire-to-wire, using a 1-3-1 zone to slow Mountain Ridge and lead by as many as eight points more than once in the third quarter.

Trailing 45-40 after a Shylah Taylor 3-pointer with 6:18 to play, Mountain Ridge did what it has time and time again in March over the last two years: find a way to prolong its season.

Mountain Ridge exploded for an 11-0 run to take the lead for good, and Sydney Snyder put the dagger in the heart of Allegany's upset bid, burying a 3-pointer for a 51-45 edge with 1:45 to play that capped a personal 7-0 burst and sent the home fans into a frenzy.

Third-seeded Allegany gave everything it had, but in the end, it wasn't enough to unseat the defending champs, as second-seeded Mountain Ridge came back to win 51-49 and advance to the Class 1A West Region I championship game.

The Miners (21-3) will take on top-seeded Southern (20-3), a 72-25 victor over Northern in the other semifinal, for the title on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Oakland.

"You have to give credit to Allegany," Mountain Ridge head coach Todd Snyder said. "They hit shots early, they played hard, they made us uncomfortable in situations. We finally made plays at the end. ... I'm just proud of my girls for digging in. They made shots when they needed to.

"During a timeout, we had senior leadership step up. They spoke and we let them speak, and they took over and got control of the girls."

The win was Mountain Ridge's third of the season over Allegany (15-8), which saw its eight-game winning streak snapped. The Miners' victory was their ninth in a row.

Snyder scored a team-high 22 points for Mountain Ridge, nine of which came in the fourth quarter, and the southpaw hit four 3s. Kealana Pua'auli joined her in double figures with 15, and Reghan Sivic added nine.

Avery Miller tallied 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Allegany, Taylor scored 12 and pulled down eight boards, and Myia Miller had six rebounds and four points. Avery Miller and Taylor both made three triples; the Campers had eight as a team.

Allegany made four 3s in the first quarter to jump out to a 19-11 lead, and it led 19-14, 29-24 and 41-36 following the first three periods.

The Campers still had a chance to win the game after Snyder's 3-pointer put Mountain Ridge ahead by six with 1:45 left.

Miller drilled a 3 to trim the deficit to three points, and, after a Mountain Ridge miss, Allegany had 5.9 seconds to go the length of the floor and try for a tying 3-pointer.

Allegany drew the play up for Taylor, who has a team-high 64 3-pointers on the year, but Mountain Ridge fouled Ella Shade before the play developed to put her on the line with 1.6 seconds left.

Shade hit the first free throw to make it 51-49 Miners; however, before she could intentionally miss the second in the hopes of a tying put-back, Allegany was called for a violation on the free throw.

"Not one time this year did I leave thinking we didn't give a great effort. They're a really great group of kids," Allegany head coach Jim O'Neal said. "You have to give Mountain Ridge credit, they played just as hard. They were one basket better, and you have to congratulate them on the win."

The game may have been decided at the free-throw line. Allegany made just 13 of 27 foul shots, while Mountain Ridge was 13 for 19.

The first three quarters were defined by Allegany's 3-point shooting, and Mountain Ridge's offensive struggles against the Campers' zone.

The latter was most apparent in the third period, when Mountain Ridge didn't make a field goal until Snyder hit a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the quarter.

"We did our homework just like they did their homework," O'Neal said. "They seem to have trouble with that defense. I thought they did at times tonight. We gave them a lot of baskets close to the rim. That really hurt us. Maybe we could've done that a little better."

Mountain Ridge tripled its second-half field goal total just minutes into in the fourth quarter after Sivic and Pua'auli attacked the short corner and drove to the rim to lower the Campers' lead to 42-40.

That sequence seemed to spark confidence in Mountain Ridge, which scored 15 of the first 19 points in the decider to pull off the comeback.

"From the very beginning, we wanted to attack (the basket)," coach Snyder said. "They started to attack more, put them into some foul trouble. ... Once the ball went inside — inside-out, outside-in — good things happened."

Mountain Ridge now turns to Southern, which it split with in the regular season losing 56-49 in Oakland in January before winning 50-40 at home a month later.

"We better come ready to play," Snyder said. "They're going to be ready for us."

Allegany finishes the season with a 15-8 record. The Campers began the year 7-7 before rattling off eight straight wins. They nearly tallied a ninth, but it just wasn't meant to be.

"We had a great season," O'Neal said. "Unbelievable group of players to work with. We're really proud of them. Hopefully as time goes by, they can look back at what a great season they had. More importantly, how great of teammates they were to each other. They were a lot of fun to work with."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.