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Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Portage players (from left) Maddy Hudak, Lauren Shaffer, Sydni Sossong, Maryn Swank and Ashlyn Hudak celebrate.

CRESSON — Portage sophomore Alex Chobany trotted to the bench after picking up her third foul of the game with 6:25 to play in the first half Friday at Mount Aloysius in the District 6 Class 1A championship game.

The Lady Mustangs were trailing Williamsburg by eight points, their press was being broken and their offense was stalled.

Compared to everything else they have been through this season, it’s no wonder they never let it get to them — Chobany in particular.

Portage battled back and slowly took control of the game, going ahead by as many as 10 points, before the Lady Pirates themselves fought back and took the lead with 2:02 left.

That’s when Chobany, who had played limited minutes in the second half as well after picking up her fourth foul, took over. Starting with the go-ahead basket with 1:48 to play, she scored seven consecutive points in the span of just more than a minute to lead Portage to just its second-ever District 6 title, 52-47, over top-seeded Williamsburg.

“In a basketball game, you put your best defenders on the other team’s best players,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “Alex and Cami (Burkett) got that call tonight, and with that, it turned into fouls. Alex got some and had to sit, but she came in after I told her it was her time in the fourth quarter, and she was instantly a difference maker.”

Chobany finished with 12 points.

“It was so hard being out, but I was screaming from the bench ready to get back in,” Chobany said. “It’s amazing to win this after all we have gone through. We worked so hard for it.”

Portage lost three talented players to major season-ending knee injuries early in the season — Lauren Shaffer, Maddy Hudak and Jenna Burkett. Ashlyn Hudak also missed time with a concussion, and the Lady Mustangs were playing with just seven players during one stretch.

“This year, I don’t think many people in District 6 outside of our locker room thought Portage would be here, especially after all our injuries,” Coach Hudak said. “Except for these 11 players. They knew they could still do this. They said they were still better than everybody, and we proved that tonight.”

Shaffer, a senior who has won medals in several sports throughout her high school career and played a major role in Portage’s 2020 District 6 Class 5A title, got one more medal Friday while cheering from the sideline.

“It’s amazing to see them do this,” Shaffer said. “What happened this year was crazy. No one would have ever thought all this could happen. To see them do this, they can go as far as they want in the state playoffs too. I’m just so proud of them. It’s hard being on the bench, but I’m here to help them in any way I can, and I’m so happy for them.”

Fellow senior Sydni Sossong added 10 points, and Brooke Bednarski scored a game-high 14 for the Lady Mustangs.

“It’s honestly so great,” Bednarski said. “We played really well tonight and played as a team. It wasn’t just one person. We all stepped up, like we have been stepping up for each other all season.”

Williamsburg took its final lead at 44-43 when Kendel Norris made a layup with just more than two minutes to play but didn’t score again until Jayla Woodruff’s 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds to play.

“Something rattled us,” Williamsburg coach Amy Hileman said. “I don’t know if we were expecting to make more shots and then we were getting amped up because they weren’t falling, but we came out strong, but the second and third quarter were really tough on us. We started to lose our focus and leave girls open on their drives. I don’t know if it was being on a big court like this in this atmosphere for the first time or what. I think a little bit of that got to them, but it’s all a learning experience.”

Ayla Hileman led Williamsburg with 12 points, and Woodruff scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds.

“We haven’t been here in 21 years, and for the kids to experience this and have the community support has always been a dream of mine,” Amy Hileman said. “That’s why I wanted to coach, so they could experience the same things I did. We fell short today. Portage hustled all over the place and played very well.”

Williamsburg will play the loser of Saturday’s Ridgway and North Clarion game on Wednesday in the PIAA first round.

“(Bellwood-Antis coach Jim) Swaney said the same thing last night in the paper, we can still battle and come back and be in the state finals,” Amy Hileman said. “We can take this experience and build on it or choose to go the other way. My hope is that we build on it, because they are capable of playing a lot better than we did the last three quarters tonight.”

Portage, which forced 25 Williamsburg turnovers, will take on the fifth-place team from the WPIAL on Tuesday.

“We did have to adjust this year,” Hudak said. “Everything was about creating off the press, but as we get into foul trouble like we did tonight, and as we’ve lost speed with injuries and everything, we had to work more in the halfcourt defense. I believe only three teams have scored 50 on us this year. This is the best defensive and rebounding team I have ever coached. They have so much heart out there.”

PORTAGE (52): Sossong 3 3-4 10, Swank 0 0-2 0, Wozniak 1 0-1 3, Chobany 4 4-6 12, Bednarski 6 2-3 14, C. Burkett 2 3-7 7, A. Hudak 2 0-0 6, Noll 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 12-23 52.

WILLIAMSBURG (47): Hileman 4 3-4 12, Woodruff 4 2-5 11, Norris 3 2-2 8, J. Carper 1 0-0 3, Simpson 1 4-5 6, Prough 3 1-2 7. Totals — 16 12-18 45.


Portage 7 13 15 18 — 52

Williamsburg 13 9 9 15 — 47

3-point goals: Portage 4 (A. Hudak 2, Sossong, Wozniak); Williamsburg 3 (Hileman, Woodruff, J. Carper).

Records: Portage (21-5); Williamsburg (21-6).

Officials: Dan Gales, Jason Whorl, Anthony Brezovec.

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