STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – From Day 1 of the 2010 season, the pressure was on the Mt. Lebanon girls basketball team to repeat as state champions.
And the Blue Devils (29-2), ranked No. 9 in the country by MaxPreps.com, responded in style, going 29-2 on the season and taking home the state title with a convincing 70-43 win over Archbishop Ryan on Friday night at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.
"It’s awesome," said junior star Madison Cable, who had a game-high 30 points. "This is amazing. I’m so excited."
Mt. Lebanon, which is just the fourth back-to-back Class AAAA champion since the division started in 1984 and the first since Downingtown won two straight in 1997-98, used a 15-2 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to break open a four-point game.
The Blue Devils led 22-18 with 2:32 left in the opening half before ending the half with an 8-2 run to take a 30-20 halftime lead. They then started the second half with a 7-0 run to move the advantage out to 17 on their way to leading by 24, 54-30, at the end of the third quarter.
"I think the run (at the end of the first half) was huge," Mt. Lebanon head coach Dori Oldaker said. "I think we needed that spark of energy. We weren’t playing with a lot of energy in the first half. Coming out in the second half, I thought we played with a lot more energy."
Cable was a one-person wrecking crew for Mt. Lebanon, tossing the Ragdolls around like, well, ragdolls, for most of the game, hitting 13 of 19 shots from the field while netting 20 or her 30 points in the first half. She added nine rebounds, six steals, five assists and two blocked shots. Mt. Lebanon’s pressure defense was too much for Archbishop Ryan (22-8), as the Ragdolls turned the ball over 26 times, leading to 24 Blue Devil points. That was a big reason why Mt. Lebanon had 18 fastbreak points as well.
"That was huge," Oldaker said. "We saw them on film and didn’t think they could handle a lot of pressure. So we wanted to make them use their left hands and put pressure on them."
The Blue Devils also dominated inside, outscoring Archbishop Ryan 50-12 in the paint.
"We actually thought we weren’t dominating (them inside) in the first half," Oldaker said. "I thought we were getting beat on the boards. It seemed like we did a better job in the second half."
NOTES – The 27-point margin of victory was the largest in a Class AAAA girls game since 1998 when Downingtown beat Altoona by 27 as well, 63-36. ... Mt. Lebanon's only two losses this season were to the top two teams in the nation, No. 1 St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) and No. 2 Brea Olinda (Calif.). The Blue Devils fell 58-47 to Brea Olinda and 61-52 to St. Mary's.