Dawgs earn four


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POTTSVILLE - Several members of Tri-Valley's girls' basketball team have been under the weather for the past few days.

The bug was so bad for Taylor Troutman that she missed the Dawgs' district semifinal win Wednesday, Feb. 27.

While all of the players' ills weren't cured by Saturday's District 11 Class A final, consider the beatdown Tri-Valley delivered a little bit of chicken soup.

Troutman didn't display any lasting effects of the illness, scoring a career-high 27 points and helping lead Tri-Valley to its fourth straight district title with a 65-31 rout of Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg at Martz Hall.

"With it coming down to the state playoffs, you have to play every game like it's your last," Troutman said. "Every game counts, and I wanted to make this one count, especially being out that last one."

Troutman finished with a double-double, adding 12 rebounds, while senior classmates Juli Weber and Tara Nahodil joined her in double figures as the Dawgs pummeled the Spartans (18-7) from the opening tip.

After struggling in the Dawgs' loss to Pine Grove in the Schuylkill League final and missing Wednesday's tight victory over Shenandoah Valley in the semifinals, Troutman came out firing.

"Taylor was very disappointed with the way she played in the league final. Then obviously she didn't get to play in the district semifinal," Tri-Valley coach Bob Felty Jr. said. "I think she wanted to come out tonight and prove a point."

She made her point quickly.

The 5-foot-9 forward scored 23 points by the 3:22 mark of the first half as Tri-Valley (23-3) built a 44-11 edge.

"I felt that I needed to pull up because I let my team down last game and couldn't make it," Troutman said. "So I wanted to make up for it this game."

Troutman certainly had plenty of help from her friends.

Nahodil scored 13 of her 17 points in the first 16 minutes, and Weber added 10 of her 16 before halftime.

Tri-Valley harassed the Spartans' ball-handlers and crashed the boards hard. By the time the opening quarter was over, the Dawgs led 24-7. Eight minutes later the edge was 50-15 and the outcome was all but decided.

"When we're playing it doesn't really feel like (that). You look up at the score and you're up 20," Weber said. "You get the ball. We're trained to get it and run. It's what we work on every day at practice. You just get it and go. It just kind of falls together on the court. I get the ball, we pass it ahead and we hit it to the open girl. It just happens to be quick like that."

There was no doubt Tri-Valley was firing on all cylinders.

The Dawgs shot a sizzling 19-for-33 (.576) in the first half, forced 14 turnovers while committing only four and turned Notre Dame's miscues into 21 points.

All of that happened despite the Dawgs not being able to prepare like they normally do because of the sickness.

Weber finished with eight rebounds, five steals and three assists and directed Tri-Valley's efficient offensive sets. She also helped the Dawgs transition off rebounds, pushing the pace.

"Juli controls the tempo for us," Felty said. "When she's out in the open court creating shots for herself and everyone else, that's when we're at our best."

And Nahodil was able to match up with a defender of similar size.

The 6-4 Seton Hall-bound center dominated, making eight of her first nine shots from the field.

"Tara was looking forward to playing against their big girl," Felty said. "She doesn't get a whole lot of opportunities to play against girls that are similar to her size. She was really looking forward to playing against her."

A dominant performance may have been just what Tri-Valley needed after two tough outings in a row.

Now, the Dawgs can turn their focus on the PIAA Tournament where they'll face District 4 runner-up Sayre, which lost 37-27 to Lourdes.

First, Tri-Valley can take some time to celebrate a feat just one other District 11 Class A school has accomplished. The Dawgs joined Nativity as the only program with four straight titles.

"It's a dream for most teams to get one or two (gold medals)," Weber said. "For us to come out since our freshman year and accomplish something so big that only one other team, Nativity, has done get four of these ... we came back four years.

"I feel like it hasn't hit us yet. We were out the fourth quarter and were just like 'Wow!' It felt like another game. Standing here with the trophy in my hands, it feels like something greater than that."

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