HERSHEY, Pa. -- Tri-Valley's Tara Nahodil, who is 6 feet 4, was the tallest player Vincentian had faced all season.
Through one half, Vincentian made Nahodil nearly invisible, but a big second half made her look more like a 7-footer, and she and her teammates stopped the Royals short of reaching their ultimate goal.
Nahodil, a Seton Hall recruit, scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half, and Tri-Valley used a dominant final 11 minutes to win its first PIAA championship by beating Vincentian, 59-42, in the Class A title game Saturday at Giant Center.
Vincentian, the WPIAL champion, finished the season 29-2. The Royals were making their third PIAA championship appearance. They won their lone title in 2002 after losing a year earlier.
It was a tale of two halves for Vincentian. The Royals were poised and played excellent defense in the first half, but looked like a completely different team for the majority of the second half against an experienced Tri-Valley team.
The Lady Dawgs (28-3) started four seniors and reached at least the quarterfinals in four consecutive seasons. Vincentian has four underclassmen starters, including a freshman and sophomore.
"The first half we played them pretty evenly. The second half, I think that's where their experience came in. They kind of took advantage of us a little bit," said Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief.
Vincentian trailed Tri-Valley, 25-24, at the half, and was down, 33-31, with 3:28 left in the third quarter. That's when things began to snowball on the Royals.
Tri-Valley blitzed Vincentian by scoring the final 12 points of the third quarter to take a 45-31 lead. Nahodil scored eight points in the run, including a basket just before the buzzer. Nahodil had only four points up until that point.
"We wanted to try to establish Tara," said Tri-Valley coach Bob Felty Jr. "We felt if we just reversed the ball, we'd get her on ball reversal, and we executed perfectly in the second half."
After the closing run in the third, that snowball turned into an avalanche. Vincentian's Kiersten Elliott made a jumper 21 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Tri-Valley answered with an 11-0 run to increase its lead to 56-33.
"I think we might have just got lost on defense," said Vincentian sophomore Brenna Wise. "We did everything we could. We had the heart out there. We had the determination. We made a few mistakes. They countered on those mistakes and converted them. We just need to learn from that."
Tri-Valley shot 72 percent (13 of 18) in the second half, making 12 of its first 15 field-goal attempts. Vincentian shot 25 percent (7 of 27) in the second half.
Wise, who averaged 21 points per game this season, led Vincentian with 18 points and 18 rebounds. Wise said she already has scholarship offers from Pitt, Duquesne, Providence and Drexel.
"She plays with her heart on her shoulders. She does it all for us," Moncrief said.
Vincentian's Abbey Bartoszewicz added 10 points.
The Royals shot 29 percent (17 of 58) for the game and allowed Tri-Valley to shoot 52 percent (21 of 40).
Vincentian's only other loss this season was to Gateway in the regular-season finale.
Tri-Valley guard Juli Weber was the perfect outside compliment to Nahodil's inside game. Weber, a South Florida softball recruit, finished with 19 points, 10 steals and 9 rebounds.
Vincentian grabbed a 15-11 lead in the first quarter and was neck and neck with Tri-Valley throughout the first half and into the third quarter, before the Lady Dawgs took a huge bite out of the Royals.
Many of the Vincentian players and coaches were red-eyed after the tough loss, but Wise believes it won't be long before the Royals are playing for another state title.
"We made it here," Wise said. "Congratulations to them. It was well deserved. We have a lot of work to do. We're going to work twice as hard because we will be back and we're determined."
First Published March 24, 2013 4:30 AM