DALLAS — A charged-up Dallas team intent on proving itself as a top contender tried to untangle itself from a bunch of teams tied for first place.
But the Mountaineers may have gotten caught in an emotional web.
They watched Pittston Area score the game’s first eight points Monday and never recovered, finally falling to the Patriots, 56-50 in a game that knocked Dallas from a three-way tie at the top of the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1.
“We hate to lose,” Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said. “We knew we were in a three-way tie for first place. We knew it would be a battle. The kids were psyched up for this game.”
It may have psyched out the Mountaineers.
Pittston Area’s Kirsten Durling scored six of the game’s first eight points, on her way to a season-high 22-point night, and Dallas never quite recovered.
The Mountaineers fell behind 21-10 by the end of the first quarter and trailed by 14 points midway through the second quarter before settling down.
“We didn’t start the game as well as I expected to or we wanted to,” said Johnson, whose team fell to 4-2 in Division 1 and a game behind 5-1 Pittston Area and Hazleton Area. “Maybe it was nerves early, trying to do too much with the ball. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole.”
The Mountaineers couldn’t quite climb out, and never caught up.
They sure tried, though.
Maddie Kelley hit a layup and a 3-pointer as Dallas cut its deficit to eight points by halftime. Courtney Hoats canned a 3-point field goal early in the second half to bring the Mountaineers within three points. And just as the Patriots began planning to put the game away while taking a seven-point lead with under five minutes to play, Dallas had other ideas.
Sara Lojewski and Olivia Johnson drilled back-to-back 3-pointers as the Mountaineers chiseled their deficit to 50-47 with 44 seconds remaining.
A little later, Hanna Johnson buried a long 3-pointer with 23 seconds on the clock.
But the Mountaineers never did catch up.
“I give the kids a lot of credit,” Kelly Johnson said, “for their heart and their hustle and their determination down the stretch. We just came up a little short.”
Still, the effort showed Dallas has come miles from last season’s 4-10 league finish.
“From a year ago, compared to where we’re at now, I couldn’t be prouder,” Kelly Johnson said. “We’re just disappointed. They really wanted to win this game. They didn’t give up.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski