District 3 Girls Basketball: Laney Noreika scores 17, but Delone Catholic’s press suffocates No. 5 Big Spring in 4A semis

Christian Eby For The Sentinel

Big Spring girls basketball knew it had a dicey path to the District 3 Class 4A title.

The No. 5 Bulldogs knocked off No. 4-seeded Berks Catholic in the quarterfinals in a 38-33 comeback effort Friday and hoped for a repeat performance in Wednesday night’s semifinal battle versus top seed and district powerhouse Delone Catholic.

But like with most opponents this season, the reigning 3A champions handily erased any chances of a cinderella story.

Using a full court press all game — a team trademark — the Squires stymied the Bulldog offense en route to a 58-29 victory at Delone Catholic High School.

“Delone is really unlike any other team we faced this year,” Big Spring head coach Randy Jones said.

“You can’t take away their pressure and tenacity on defense. We struggled with it from the start.”

After a Laney Noreika opening layup, Delone Catholic garnered complete control the rest of the way, jetting out to an 10-2 run and never looked back. The Squires’ nagging pressure forced many Bulldog passes to go awry, ultimately giving Delone much leeway in the turnover category.

The Bulldogs were held to single digits in the scoring column for three of the four quarters, barely cracking double digits with 10 in the third frame.

Despite the near 30-point scoring margin, Big Spring also held its share of lockdown defense, forcing the Squires to consistently move the ball. In most cases, Delone out-classed the Bulldogs at their own game, eventually finding the open look behind the arc or down in the paint.

Standing out

The Squires’ defensive presence didn’t stop Noreika from still having a solid outing. She notched 17 of the Bulldogs’ 29 points, grabbed an unofficial eight boards and went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Senior Aleya Eisenberg, playing in her last game in the maroon and gold, tickled the twine on two treys in the third quarter, ending her night with six points. Ava Wilson added four points and Diana Kepner tallied two.

For the Squires, junior McKenna Mummert nearly duplicated Noreika’s 17 with 15 of her own, and last year’s All-State Third Team representative, Giana Hoddinott, finished with 13.

By the numbers

Big Spring’s loss comes down to one item: the Delone Catholic defense. The Squires’ signature full-court pressure forced the Bulldogs to cough up the ball 21 times. Additionally, they held Big Spring to an 8-for-31 clip (25.8%) from the field and a 3-for-10 line from deep.

Up next

With the loss, the Bulldogs’ season comes to a close with only the six district champions moving onto states this year. Big Spring finishes its campaign at 15-4.

Delone Catholic returns to its home floor Friday for the 4A title to face No. 3 seed Lancaster Catholic, who bested Eastern York Wednesday 50-34.

They said it

Jones on Big Spring’s noteworthy season: “We talked about it in the locker room, everything we went through. From being told we’d have to wear masks, being shut down for two weeks, to coming back and then having an all-around solid year. They all overcame adversity this season, and that’s something they all should be proud of.”

Jones on the longevity of Bulldog basketball: “We’re losing just one senior in Aleya, who always well-represented Big Spring basketball, worked hard and brought character to our team. I hope our next group of seniors follow in her footsteps, and I think we’re coming back next year with an experienced group who know what to expect in these types of situations.”

Eisenberg on the Bulldogs 2020-21 season: “I’m just so thankful that I got the chance to be part of this program. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other, even with everything we went through with COVID. We got through it together as a team, and I think that’s what makes our group so special.”