WILLIAMSTOWN - For the better part of three quarters, the Williamstown Lady Yellowjackets played like anything but a team lacking experience in big games such as Wednesday evening's regional game against Charleston Catholic.
Unfortunately for head coach Fred Sauro and his Lady Jackets, that inexperience showed up in a big way in the final eight minutes.
The Lady Irish used a tenacious full court pressure defense to force the 'Jackets into 11 fourth quarter turnovers and out score WHS 19-5 in the final eight minutes to score a big 54-49, come-from-behind victory to earn a berth to the Division I state playoffs in Charleston.
The Yellowjackets have just one senior on their roster and five of the seven girls in the rotation are either freshman or sophomores.
Catholic jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead thanks to a pair of early field goals by Hanna Gallian, but the Jackets came roaring back to score 16-of-the-next 21 points to take n 18-11 lead early in the second quarter.
WHS post player Melissa Cieslewski had a huge opening half as she had already completed a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds) before the first half came to a close.
CHARLESTON CATHOLIC 54 WILLIAMSTOWN 49
Regional game at Williamstown High School
Charleston Catholic 11 6 18 19 - 54
Williamstown 13 16 15 5 - 49
Charleston Catholic (19-6)
Peyton Mullen 4-13 2-2 10, Caroline Dundervill 5-9 0-0 10, Anna Whelan 7-13 2-4 16, Vida Imani 1-7 1-1 3, Hanna Gallian 5-20 0-0 11, Maddie Blaydes 1-4 0-0 2, Peri Biley 1-1 0-0 2, Totals: 24-67 5-7 54. Three-Point Goals: 1 (Gallian).
Ashley Morris 2-8 1-4 6, Cami Mossor 3-6 0-0 7, Allie Robinson 0-4 0-2 0, Melissa Cieslewski 9-11 3-4 21, Samantha Dedrick 6-11 1-2 13, BreeAnn Reynolds 0-2 0-0 0, Aubrey Yeager 1-2 0-1 2, Totals: 21-44 5-13 49. Three-Point Goals: 2 (Mossor, Morris).
Charleston Catholic: Shooting: 24-67 (35.8 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 1-9 (11.1 percent), Rebounds: 22 (Imani 7, Galian 7), Assists: 11 (Dundervill 5), Steals: 19 (Galian 5, Dundervill 4, Whelan 4), Turnovers: 14, Team Fouls: 13.
Williamstown: Shooting: 21-44 (47.7 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 2-3 (66.7 percent), Rebounds: 36 (Cieslweski 18, Robinson 9), Assists: 8 (Robinson 3), Turnovers: 26, Team Fouls: 10.
Charleston Catholic closed the lead to five on a Anna Whelan score but the Yellowjackets scored the next nine points to stretch their lead to 27-13 with less than four minutes to play before the break.
Sauro had hefty praise for the job Cieslewski did inside for the Lady 'Jackets early on.
"She is the leading rebounder in the entire area," said Sauro, whose team out rebounded CC 26-10 in the opening half. "She was scoring well early and really played well."
The Lady Irish, who shot just 9-of-35 (25.7 percent) from the floor in the opening half, somehow managed to trim the WHS lead to dozen at 29-17 heading to the intermission.
Williamstown looked like they just might turn the game into a laugher early in the second half as they opened the third quarter by scoring 13-of-the-first-23 points to open up their biggest lead of the game at 42-27 with a little more than a minute to play in the third quarter.
The final minute of the third quarter may have well proved to be the start of the Williamstown downfall as the Lady Irish forced three turnovers and scored six quick points to whittle the lead down to just nine heading to the final quarter.
"We really got after it and just kept chipping away and chipping away at it," said Charleston Catholic head coach Zack Bogan. "We were able to make enough plays to get ourselves back in it."
Peyton Mullen and Caroline Dundervill each scored quick field goals in the final quarter after Williamstown turnovers and all of he sudden the Yellowjacket lead was down to just five at 44-39 with 7:10 to play.
Freshman Samantha Dedrick stopped the bleeding momentarily for WHS with a strong finish inside but Dundervill and Whelan answered for the Irish to make it a 46-43 game with 4:50 to play.
The Yellowjackets did not help themselves at all down the stretch at the charity stripe as they connected on just 5-of 13 freebies in the game, including three misses in the final four minutes of the game.
Dedrick made good on the front end of a one-on-one to push the lead back to four but another Whelan score with two minutes to play closed the lead to just two.
Williamstown continued to struggle to get the ball up the court and Dundervill came up with a huge steal at mid court and then found Whelan wide open for a game-tying lay-up to knot things at 47-47.
The 'Jackets once again turned the ball over on its next possession, giving Catholic the chance to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
After getting the ball knocked away under their own goal, the Lady Irish pulled back in front on a Gallian short jumper off of a nifty inbound assist from Dundervill.
Vida Imani created yet another Williamstown turnover and really made things miserable for the 'Jackets when she converted an old-fashioned three-point play at the other end to give the Irish a five point lead with just 60 seconds remaining on the clock.
A Cieslewski bucket cut the lead to 52-49 and after Ashley Morris and Robinson stripped the ball away from Charleston Catholic to give the 'Jackets possession of the ball, Robinson came up empty on a pair of free throws.
The Irish went to the line just seven times in the game but Mullen connected on a pair with 14 ticks remaining on the clock to cap the stunning comeback and punch the Charleston Catholic ticket to Charleston.
"Williamstown is a great team who is very well coached and they took us out of a lot of what we wanted to do tonight," said Bogan. "We we're just able to figure it out by the end. It was a great game and I am real proud of these girls."
Whelan led a very balanced scoring attack for Charleston Catholic (19-6) with 16 points, while Gallian, Dundervill and Mullen contributed 11, 10, and 10 points respectively.
Ciesleski led the way for Williamstown with 21 points and 18 boards while Dedrick added 13 points.
Williamstown, who rallied to finish with a 16-8 record after dropping their first four games to open the season have nothing to hang their heads about according to their veteran head coach.
"Sure its disappointing to lose this game," said Sauro, who finished up his 29th year as head coach. "But there is a very bright future ahead for our girls in that locker room."