IT’S OVER! Ellwood snaps 91-game losing streak!
Ellwood City (49) Vs. Center (43)
By TODD KRISE
Asia Borders was likely finger painting the last time Ellwood City Lincoln High won a WPIAL section girls basketball game.
It was Jan. 17, 2002, and Borders was 6 years old.
Last night, as a freshman forward for the Lady Wolverines, Borders brushed a 17-point masterpiece to help lift Ellwood City over Center, 49-43, in a Section 2-AAA contest.
The victory ended the Lady Wolverines’ 91-game league losing streak, according to WPIAL, New Castle News and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette archives.
“I’m just so happy for the girls,” said Ellwood City coach Bill Gottuso, whose daughter, Lisa, drained 30 points in a 54-52 overtime win against Beaver in the Lady Wolverines’ last section win more than eight years ago. Ellwood City and Beaver both competed in Section 2-AAA during the 2001-02 season.
“That’s a long time,” Gottuso added. “People don’t understand, anybody can come out and play when they’re winning. We lost so many games that coming to practice every day makes it hard. The girls never complained.”
With four seconds remaining and Ellwood City (1-7 section, 9-10 overall) winning by six, Gottuso ripped off his polo shirt and sported a royal blue T-shirt that read, “The Streak Has Ended.” And on the back said, “Ellwood beats Center, February 4, 2010.”
“We made them up on Monday night,” he explained. “I said put the date on, we’re going to do this.”
And if the Lady Wolverines didn’t win?
“We would’ve sent them to Haiti like they do in the NFL.”
Borders scored 11 of her game-high total in the second half as Ellwood City erased an 18-13 halftime deficit with an 18-10 third-quarter run.
Allison Marshall sparked the comeback with a steal on Center’s first possession of the second half. The junior guard then nailed a 3-pointer and converted a layup after another Lady Trojans turnover.
“Halftime, we were down and I told them we should’ve been up,” Gottuso said. “We missed some layups and gave them easy shots. I said, ‘You’ve got to do this for yourselves because years from now you’re going to remember this game and that you had a chance to win.’ ”
Borders and fellow forward Michelle Nocera took over in the final frame.
Nocera was held to zero field goals and only two made foul shots in the first three quarters. But Ellwood City’s leading scorer got back on track with three critical layups down the stretch.
Her third bucket gave the Lady Wolverines a six-point lead with 32 seconds left.
Borders scored nine points in the fourth quarter to steal the game away from Center (1-7, 4-13), which defeated Ellwood City by three points on Jan. 14.
Borders’ highest single-game total was eight heading into last night’s matchup.
“We challenged Asia at halftime,” Gottuso said. “We said, ‘They are going to suck in on Michelle and you’re going to have to step it up.’
“Usually I have a short leash on her. We told her to just play basketball. She became a sophomore overnight.”
After the final buzzer, the Lady Wolverines mobbed each other at halfcourt. Nocera said the feeling left her speechless.
“We were in the locker room before the game and said, ‘We can beat this team. We know we can. We have to do it tonight,’ ” she said. “We already have plans not to go to school (today).”
Ellwood City’s football team also broke a long losing streak this school year.
The Wolverines upended New Brighton, 33-21, to snap a 31-game skid that started Sept. 15, 2006, and ended Oct. 23, 2009.