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Westmont Hilltop girls steamroll Mercyhurst Prep, reach 3A championship game

Mar. 19—CLARION, Pa. — As soon as the final substitute came in for Christiana Gordon, she went sprinting toward the Westmont Hilltop bench. She needed to hug Zoey Lynch and Beth Buettner as the tears were flowing from the trio.

The Hilltoppers are headed to Hershey.

"It feels really good," Gordon said. "I feel like everyone doubted us. We've come up short in big games and not-so-big games, but we decided to lock in and play our game together."

Westmont Hilltop used a stingy defense, key rebounding and a dominant effort by Gordon to rout District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep 46-16 in a PIAA Class 3A girls basketball semifinal Monday at Clarion University.

"We're going to Hershey!" coach Brittany Eisenhuth said when asked about the first thing she said to her team after the game.

"Nobody thought we'd be here. We have eight girls on the roster and two have never played before. We were clicking at the right time and everyone was there for each other. We played great defense and the girls deserve this. I'm so proud of them."

Westmont Hilltop (23-4) heads to the state championship for the first time since 2006 and the third time in program history. The Hilltoppers will take on powerhouse Lancaster Catholic at 6 p.m. Thursday for the Class 3A title.

Westmont Hilltop came out in a 2-3 zone to start the game and Mercyhurst Prep couldn't find a way to get open shots. The Lakers' ball movement was too slow to get ahead of the zone, and they had to settle for long 3-pointers or off-balance runners.

At the other end, Gordon went to work, hitting shots and distributing the ball throughout the game.

"It's all about teamwork," Gordon said. "I have trust in my teammates and they trust me. I know I can score 27 points on a given night, but so can everyone else on this team."

The Hilltoppers led 16-6 after the first quarter and 30-9 at the half as they fell on every loose ball and went after every rebound.

"The girls played hard, and we have one senior (Buettner) and we kept telling her that her last game will be in Hershey," Eisenhuth said. "The girls made it happen. This team is so close. It's a family. It was super-emotional after the game and we're so excited. It's a great time to be a Hilltopper."

Westmont Hilltop needed just a few minutes in the third quarter to get the lead to 30 points and start the running clock.

Gordon, who has more than 1,000 points as a junior, scored 27 points for Westmont Hilltop, including 19 in the first half.

"She can do it all," said Mercyhurst Prep coach Dan Perfetto of Gordon. "She made a lot of shots and attacked the basket. We couldn't make a shot in the first half. A lot of times when that happens, we rely on our defensive pressure, but they were able to get by us and get to the hoop."

Lynch added nine points for Westmont Hilltop, while Buettner netted six and Aubrie Shingler scored four.

The Hilltoppers held 1,000-point scorer and New Jersey Institute of Technology recruit Olivia Kulyk to 13 points and the rest of the Lakers to three points.

"We played great defense and communicated very well," Lynch said. "We made shots at the right time and I'm so excited. We worked hard for this and deserve this."

Westmont Hilltop will play for a state title for the third time in program history after losing two close games in 2005 and 2006.

"This was always the goal and we knew we had a lot of battles in front of us, but we are jelling at the right time," Eisenhuth said. "We have two starters with no varsity experience, and we relied on our big three. We built around them and now we have girls all over making huge plays. It's exciting because we're going to Hershey, baby."