Cambria Heights girls pass first test against Bald Eagle Area

Mar. 4—PATTON — One of the things that makes the Cambria Heights High School girls’ basketball team so dangerous is the Highlanders don’t have to be shooting well to win. They can beat you in many ways.

“Our team really hustles well. We do all the little things that need to be done,” Highlander senior point guard Paige Jones said. “We box out. We find the open shot. We move the ball well. Even though some of our shots aren’t falling, we find ways to get to the basket, find second-shot opportunities. We just work well together.”

Bald Eagle Area will attest to that. Cambria Heights, the defending District 6 Class 3A champ, shot 30.8% in its postseason opener and still won its quarterfinal game by 30 points, 51-21, on Wednesday night, using 21 offensive rebounds and 30 forced turnovers — many of them steals — to take 68 shots, double that of the visiting Eagles.

“We came out a little nervous and a little slower, but the second and third quarters and into the fourth, we came together,” said Heights senior forward Jade Snedden, who posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. “We’re a team, and, when we work together, we’re more of a family, if that makes sense.”

Everyone got in on the act in different ways as the second-seeded Highlanders improved to 10-3 and earned the right to host another Centre County opponent, Penns Valley, in Monday’s semifinals. Kirsten Weakland scored 19 points to go along with five steals, Bryce Burkey netted 13, Jones had seven steals and eight assists and Abbie Baker pulled down 12 rebounds.

“This is the most people we’ve played in front of all year, so (the players) were excited and nervous at the same time, and I’m glad we got that out of our system,” Highlanders coach Amber Fees said. “The second, third and fourth quarters, we started playing our basketball. We were hustling more and rebounding better.

“It makes me proud. We haven’t had a successful shooting game this year so far, so we need those second and third chances to put the ball in the hoop.”

The Highlanders always just seemed a step ahead in the passing lanes, a second quicker off the floor chasing the rebounds. They were able to impose a frenetic style that didn’t suit the Eagles (6-10) and, eventually, just wore them down.

Heights clung to a two-point lead with 4:10 left in the second quarter when Weakland hauled in a long pass for a layup.

Eight minutes later, it was a 17-point difference.

“I thought, ‘We’re in good shape here.’ Then we had four turnovers. They’re a complete team,” Bald Eagle Area coach Shawn Thompson said. “They’re a really athletic team.”

Kierra Serb and Abby Hoover led Bald Eagle with five points apiece. The Highlanders held the Eagles to seven field goals, outrebounding them 45-30 and committed half as many turnovers, 30-15.

Heights was well-rested. The Highlanders hadn’t played in a week, being forced to miss the Laurel Highlands Conference tournament because of contact tracing for COVID.

“I was so mad about that. Our whole team was so mad about that. We wanted to play so bad and to try to redeem ourselves from last year, because we lost in the first round,” Weakland said.

“We didn’t get that chance, so now we just want to make a run in the playoffs like we did last year.”

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