Warren celebrates after defeating Harbor Creek, 32-31, in the 2024 District 10 4A semifinals. Photo by Mark Evans.

Dragons Outlast Huskies, Punch Their Ticket to D10 4A Title Game

February 28, 2024

ERIE, Pa. – Meea Irwin’s free throw with a minute to play gave the Dragons the lead, and the defense made it hold up as Warren outlasted Harbor Creek, 32-31, to punch its ticket to the District 10 Class 4A championship game.

See the highlights:

“I don’t really score on offense,” Irwin said during her Cole Orthodontic Associates player interview. “Defense is my game. We’re pretty aggressive and physical and we challenge the opponent.”

See Irwin’s full Cole Orthodontic Associates player interview:

The final minute was not without its own drama. Harbor Creek drew a foul on the possession following the free throw, putting Warren at four team fouls for the quarter. Another foul against the Dragons would have sent the Huskies to the line with a chance to tie or take the lead.

As the Huskies put the ball back in play, Alana Stuart came up with a steal. Stuart pushed the ball down the court and passed off a spin move. The ball went off Irwin’s fingertips and out of bounds with eight seconds left.

After each team took a timeout, Harbor Creek brought the ball down the court. Hannah Smith found Elise Benim on the wing. Benim tried to hit Brooke Przybylski on a back cut, a play that had worked well for the Huskies in the first half, but the ball was out of Przybylski’s reach and went out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left.

“(This is) what everybody’s been saying about us all along,” Warren coach Lisa LaVan said. “We have no superstar, we just grit we grind, and that’s exactly what we did today.”

See LaVan’s full interview:

Halle Kuzminski took the ball for the inbounds and launched a perfect pass to Stuart who ran out the final seconds.

“I’m pretty pumped, not gonna lie,” Irwin said. “(The coaching staff) push us in practice and they prepare us for these moments.”

The Huskies came out hot with Przybylski and Georgia Weber hitting back-to-back threes to start the game. Harbor Creek was able to build an 8-2 advantage as Warren missed its first six shots from the field. The Huskies led by six, 12-6, after the first eight minutes.

“They’re taking our stuff away, it happens in playoffs,” LaVan said about the slow start offensively. “They scout you, they know what you do, they know what your tendencies are. We just had to rely on our defense. And that’s what we did. We went to work on the defensive end and I think that’s what calmed us down and helped us, to be honest.”

By the early stages of the second quarter, it seemed Harbor Creek was going to run away with it, up 19-8 with 5:30 to play before halftime. Kuzminski completed a traditional 3-point play and Alyssa Farr knocked down a three to cut the lead to 19-14 at the break.

“Halle’s one of the pieces that’s the heart and soul of this group,” LaVan said. “She gets fired up and gets after those pieces. She’s a great leader. She’s calm, we have such a calming presence with her and Sammie (Ruhlman) on the court. She gets fired up though and everybody really likes that. She knows when to play the card and she plays it well.”

Both teams got off to a sloppy start in the second half, but Harbor Creek still led 21-16 midway through the frame. Warren began cutting into the lead, and the Huskies had just a 2-point advantage, 27-25, going to the fourth quarter.

Stuart’s steal and layup with 5:07 to play gave the Dragons their first lead of the game, 29-27. The teams traded buckets to a 31-31 tie, setting up the final minute.

Przybylski was the only Husky in double figures with 11 points. Weber had five points.

Kuzminski had a team-high nine points, Farr added seven points, and Stuart finished with six points.

Warren will face Fairview, a 44-35 winner over Conneaut, for the D10 4A title on Saturday at a time and location to be announced.

“We’ll expect anything and everything they have,” LaVan said. “That’s what happens, District 10 playoffs, the gloves are off. So we’ll be ready for just about anything they throw at us.”

Harbor Creek will take on Conneaut in the consolation game to determine seeding for the PIAA Tournament.

      

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