THROOP — Kirsten Durling played limited minutes when Pittston Area won the district championship last season. This year, she’s one of the reasons the Patriots are going back.
Durling scored a game-high 17 points and added seven rebounds as the third-seeded Patriots beat second-seeded Wallenpaupack, 47-40, in the semifinals of the District 2-4 Class 4A subregional semifinals on Thursday at Mid Valley. The Patriots will play Hazleton Area at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26 at Mohegan Sun Arena in a rematch of last year’s district title contest.
Hazleton Area was a 60-49 winner over Wyoming Valley West on Thursday.
In a very physical game between Pittston Area and Wallenpaupack – both teams were in the double bonus early in the fourth quarter – the Patriots were able to keep their composure and gave themselves some breathing room in the second and third quarters.
“They came out swinging,” Durling said of Wallenpaupack’s intensity. “We did what we had to do.”
Durling was the beneficiary of three Taryn Ashby assists. Ashby had another solid game and finished with 14 points to go along with four assists and three steals. Ashby made six free throws in the final quarter to help Pittston Area hang on to a slim lead.
Durling, who busted onto the Wyoming Valley Conference scene midway through this season, was 4-for-5 from the free-throw line and three of her four steals led to Pittston Area buckets.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Durling said. “We talk very well on defense and we’re all very excited. We knew we were able to pull it off.”
The Patriots and Buckhorns found themselves in a dead heat after an 8-8 first quarter. Pittston Area then used a little bit of a run to take a 22-16 lead going into halftime. Thanks to threes from Noone and Durling, Pittston Area outscored Wallenpaupack by six in the quarter.
Much like they did in the quarterfinals against Williamsport on Tuesday, the Patriots went on another defensive run in the third quarter to build a lead. Durling scored four-straight points during a 6-1 stretch for Pittston Area, giving them a 29-19 edge going into the fourth.
All indications pointed to a defensive battle in the final quarter. However, both teams were able to get to the bucket often, allowing Wallenpaupack to creep back into the game. Pittston Area scored 18 points in the fourth, while Wallenpaupack scored 21. The Patriots made 12 free throws in the final stanza.
With 1:46 to play and leading 40-34, Pittston Area turned the ball over on the Buckhorn side. Durling would make a steal and get fouled to take the momentum away from Wallepaupack.
“She creates a lot of steals,” Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey said of Durling. “Her length is amazing.”
The Buckhorns cut the Pittston Area lead to just four points with 16 seconds to play when Megan Guerrieri buried a three. The Patriots would make a few free throws down the stretch to punch their ticket to the district championship.
“We’re going to the arena,” Healey beamed afterward. “That’s exciting for the city and the program – everyone.”
Pittston Area 47, Wallenpaupack 40
PITTSTON AREA (47) — Taryn Ashby 3 8-14 14, Marley O’Brien 3 1-2 7, Kirsten Durling 6 4-5 17, Jamie Chisdock 1 1-5 3, Megan Cummings 0 1-2 1, Alexa Noone 1 2-2 5, Rachel Ferrance 0 0-0 0, Mary Silinskie 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 17-30 47.
WALLENPAUPACK (40) — Molly Jansco 2 8-10 12, Megan Guerrieri 3 0-2 8, Hannah Smith 4 1-1 9, Brianna Denniston 0 0-0 0, Erin Worzel 1 1-2 3, Lauren Goetz 2 1-2 5, Rachael Tirjan 1 0-0 3. Totals 13 11-17 40.
Three-point goals — PA 2 (Durling 1, Noone 1); Wall 3 (Guerrieri 2, Tirjan 1).
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick