At the beginning of the season, not too many thought that this would be anything other than a run-of-the-mill, nothing-special year for the Great Valley girls’ basketball team. After all, the Patriots had not qualified for the state tournament since 2010 and had not won a state playoff game since 2009.
But this is turning into a special season.
Great Valley’s only senior -- Tessa Liberatoscioli -- calmly drained a free throw with no time left on the clock to give the Patriots a 40-39 win over West York in the opening round of the PIAA Class 5A state championship tournament at Methacton High School on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, Great Valley (23-4), the District 1 runner-up, advances to the second round on Wednesday against District 3 runner-up Trinity, a 54-29 winner over Penn Hills, at a place and time to be determined.
In a contest that went back and forth the entire afternoon, it all came down to the final minute of the game.
After missing a shot with her team trailing, 39-37, Liberatoscioli, who scored a game-high 21 points, stole the ball and went in for a layup to tie the game, 39-39, with 26 seconds remaining. West York (21-7), the No. 4 seed from District 3, had a chance to take the lead, but junior guard Dorian Ilyes traveled, giving the ball back to the Patriots with 13.8 seconds left.
A shot attempted by Great Valley junior guard Emma DeRobertis touched a Bulldogs player and rolled out of bounds with 6 seconds left, giving the Patriots one last shot.
The ball went over to Liberatoscioli on the right side of the lane. With time ticking away, she tried to go up for a shot and was fouled by West York sophomore guard Alainna Hopta as the buzzer sounded.
There was a technical foul called on the Bulldogs bench, so Liberatoscioli had four shots at it. She would need just one.
“I knew I had four shots, but I knew I wanted to make the first one,” Liberatoscioli said. “That would have made it 10 times better, making the first one. I did make the first one. I was so happy ending it quick.”
After the winning free throw, the Patriots student section stormed the court to high five their schoolmates.
“That was tremendous,” Patriots coach Alex Venarchik marveled. “Coming off of the district championship game, how hard we fought in that one, I was a little unsure that we might have given everything emotionally that we had. But at some point, these girls dug down deep and they just decided they wanted to win a game. It was fun to watch.”
West York 11 12 8 8 - 39
Great Valley 11 9 11 9 - 40
WY: Alayna Harris 14, Makennah Hoffman 6, Alyssa Zorbaugh 5, T’Azjah Generett 5, Alainna Hopta 4, Dorian Ilyes 3, Jewels Torres 2.