DALLAS TWP. – As a widening hole threatened to bury Dallas deeper and deeper, the Mountaineers started feeling extremely anxious.
They just didn’t show it.
And then, they showed why they could be a prime contender for the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 girls basketball title.
Lauren Charlton finished with a double-double, Hanna Johnson swished 10 free throws in the fourth quarter Tuesday and unbeaten Dallas used defense and determination to rally past visiting Crestwood, 51-42, in an early-season showdown of likely WVC Division 1 title contenders.
“We’re always picking each other up,” said Charlton, who scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. “Great team. Love them.”
The Mountaineers were forced to pick themselves up pretty early.
They fell behind 16-8 in the first quarter when Julia Makowski hit seven of her 13 points for the Comets. Sara Hopkins scored six more points in the second period to send Crestwood into halftime with a 26-21 lead.
“We were all really nervous,” Charlton said, “knowing it was a big game for us.”
“Crestwood’s touted as one of the teams to finish at the top of the conference,” Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said. “We knew that coming in. We knew it was going to be a battle to the end.”
Dallas didn’t panic, though.
Charlton scored eight points in the third quarter as Dallas closed within two points, then the Mountaineers dominated the final eight minutes to move to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the WVC — after taking down defending Division 1 champ Wyoming Valley West in overtime during the regular season opener.
Meanwhile, Crestwood dropped to 2-1 in Division 1 and to 5-2 overall.
“I have a team that’s very fundamentally sound,” Kelly Johnson said. “People may have underestimated us because of the points we lost (through graduation). But we knew what our potential was.”
The Mountaineers put it on display Tuesday, while avenging last year’s one-point loss at the buzzer to the Comets.
Charlton started the comeback, hitting a 3-pointer in the third quarter that pulled Dallas within a bucket. She later used a layup to even the score at 29-29 and buried another trey to tie the game 32-32 in the final minutes of the period.
“It was kind of just keeping my head in the game,” said Charlton, who pulled down 11 of her 15 rebounds in the second half. “A lot of times, if I’m off, I get down on myself. But if I go down and help with the defense, that really contributes. It kind of helps my confidence.”
Speaking of defense, Dallas turned it up a notch in the second half.
After Crestwood scored 16 points in the first quarter, the Comets were limited to just 18 over the next 20 minutes and were held to just four baskets after halftime.
“Halftime was basically a turning point,” Charlton said.
The Mounts made multiple adjustments that seemed to confuse Crestwood.
“We were hedging a little harder off the screens, changed some of our matchups defensively,” Kelly Johnson said. “Our defense and hedging made a difference for us.”
So did some timely shooting.
Gianna Centrella gave Dallas its first lead since the opening minutes by turning her reverse layup into a three-point play late in the third period, then gave the Mounts the lead to keep, 35-34, when she opened the fourth quarter by drilling a trey.
Samantha Kern added a big rebound layup that gave Dallas a five-point lead midway through the final quarter, and Hanna Johnson sewed things up by nailing 10 of her 12 foul shots over the final eight minutes.
Centrella finished with 13 points, Hanna Johnson had 10 and Olivia Johnson had eight. Olivia Johnson and Charlton each hit two of the team’s five 3-pointers.
“I think the thing about our team is the chemistry,” Kelly Johnson said. “They’re so unselfish. They don’t care who does the scoring, they find each other, they find the open person.”