Williamsburg holds on to eliminate Berlin Brothersvalley girls in PIAA 1A quarterfinal

Mar. 16—Her Berlin Brothersvalley High School girls basketball team had just finished a point short in a back-and-forth PIAA Class 1A quarterfinal contest on Saturday afternoon.

Coach Rachel Prosser looked past her District 5 champions' heartbreaking 54-53 loss to District 6 runner-up Williamsburg played in a packed Richland High School gymnasium.

"The hard thing is you have five seniors that have put their heart and soul into this program that we're saying goodbye to," Prosser said of a group that includes Ashley Brant, Taylor Hillegass, Regan Lauer, Riley Lauer and Claire Stoltzfus.

Berlin Brothersvalley had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but had to settle for Regan Lauer's inside basket at the buzzer when no 3-point opportunities arose on an inbounds pass with less than a second on the clock.

"I couldn't be prouder of the seniors and I'm sure their younger teammates appreciate everything they've done for us," Prosser said.

The seniors on the 23-6 Berlin Brothersvalley team were part of a combined 78-27 record, two district crowns and three state playoff appearances, including a run to the Class 1A semifinal round a year ago.

Williamsburg (27-3) will return to the semifinal round for the second time in three seasons. The Blue Pirates took the rubber match in three meetings against Berlin this season.

Williamsburg won 46-42 over Berlin Brothersvalley on Jan. 18., the Mountaineers beat the Blue Pirates 60-47 in the Inter-County Conference title game on Feb. 17.

"We knew coming in it was going to be a battle," Williamsburg coach Amy Hileman said. "It was the same during the last two games that we played them. Coming in we really wanted to avenge that ICC championship game loss. We really had that momentum behind us.

"I really think that was the driving force that helped us prepare and get to where we needed to be."

Williamsburg will play another rematch in Tuesday's state semifinal. The Blue Pirates will face Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, a team that beat them 46-42 in the District 6 championship game on Feb. 28.

"We're definitely looking forward to the challenge of seeing Bishop Guilfoyle again," Hileman said. "We're on the redemption tour. (Bishop Guilfoyle) caught us in the district championship. We're hungry for that one."

Sophomore LeeAnna Royer led Williamsburg with 20 points. Freshman Levada Gorsuch had 13, and senior Ayla Hileman had 11.

Freshman Coral Prosser and Hillegass led Berlin with 15 points apiece, and Regan Lauer had 14 points, with three 3-pointers.

Each team established leads of four and six points throughout the game but neither could pull away. Williamsburg held a 22-21 halftime advantage and each squad scored 17 points in the third quarter and 15 points in the fourth.

Hillegass gave Berlin Brothersvalley a 12-8 advantage but Williamsburg's Ayla Hileman hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to pull the Blue Pirates within a point after one quarter.

Williamsburg scored the first five points of the second quarter to lead 16-12 at 5:40.

Berlin Brothersvalley's Hillegass grabbed momentum in the paint by scoring three straight baskets after rebounds, pulling the Mountaineers within 16-14 and then forging ties at 16-all and 18-all, the latter with 3 minutes left in the half.

Hillegass had six rebounds in the second quarter and nine in the game.

Berlin Brothersvalley's Elena Ritchey put her team up 20-18 with a basket at 1:44.

Williamsburg's Royer tied the game at 20-all with 47.1 on the clock. Berlin Brothersvalley took the lead on a free throw by Regan Lauer before the Blue Pirates' Royer made a basket with 18.5 showing to set the halftime score.

"It's really hard to stop her when she's driving to the basket," Coach Hileman said of Royer. "She got some open looks. Berlin really likes to put pressure on you outside. We just kept telling our girls, 'Take it to the basket.'"

Berlin Brothersvalley's Regan Lauer opened the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers to give the Mountaineers a 27-22 lead a minute into the period. Royer's 3-pointer set a 29-all score at 5:22.

The Blue Pirates were poised to pull away after Royer hit a 3 and followed with a field goal to make it 39-33 with 2:37 remaining in the third, but Berlin Brothersvalley closed within a point after Mercy Sechler's basket with 1:12 on the clock.

The Blue Pirates had leads of 45-40 and 52-46 with 55.2 left in the fourth quarter, but Berlin continued to push back, even after standout Coral Prosser fouled out with 2:59 left and her team trailing 48-46.

"That is our leadership," Rachel Prosser said. "The younger girls are mentally tough. They focused on what needed to be done on each possession and did a good job of battling back and making the play they needed to make."

Elsie Barna's traditional three-point play later closed the gap to 52-49 with 42.9 on the clock. Two Regan Lauer free throws cut it to 52-51 at 22.7.

Williamsburg's Royer made a pair of foul shots with 12.7 remaining to push the lead back to three points.

"It's definitely stressful for a coach but those are the games you live for," Coach Hileman said. "It could have gone either way for sure."

Berlin Brothersvalley had two inbounds plays in the closing seconds, the last one with .9 on the clock. With no 3-point open look, Regan Lauer scored inside at the buzzer, hoping to draw a foul.

"I thought we had some opportunities on offense and set some good screens," Rachel Prosser said. "One call (goes) our way or one ball bouncing our way and it would have been us in the celebration here."