The Dunmore Lady Bucks keep clearing hurdles in their unbeaten season.
Friday night, they got over the largest one.
Freshman Moriah Murray hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 points and the Lady Bucks never trailed while knocking off four-time defending champion Neumann-Goretti, 54-47, in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A state quarterfinal at the Lehighton Elementary School.
Neumann-Goretti had ended four of the last five Dunmore seasons in the state tournament, including last year’s bitter semifinal loss.
The Lady Bucks showed they were ready from the start, getting all four of their scorers involved while opening with a 10-0 run.
When the Saints got all the way back to within 33-32 late in the third quarter, Murray carried the Lady Bucks down the stretch and into Monday’s state semifinal against Trinity.
Rider University recruit Victoria Toomey, facing Neumann-Goretti for the third time in her career, got it started with a three-point play in the opening seconds. Toomey went on to finish with 12 points.
Gianna Delfino, who scored 13 points, and Lisa Tallo followed with baskets.
Murray hit the first of her 3-pointers to complete the opening, 10-0 run.
Neumann-Goretti quickly moved within 14-10 before Toomey closed the quarter with a basket.
Murray started the second with another 3-pointer and Delfino scored for a 21-10 lead.
The next 3-pointer by Murray again made the margin 11 at 24-13.
From there, Neumann-Goretti fought back to get within, 33-32, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Sara Coppola and Sierra Bermudez.
That’s when Murray asserted control over a game that included Neumann-Goretti’s Diamond Johnson, one of the nation’s top-rated point guard prospects and the Virginia all-state player who transferred in for the 2018 postseason and had a dramatic impact on the last meeting between the two teams.
Murray had 16 points over the final 11 minutes, including the long 3-pointer to halt the Saints comeback.
Delfino added a basket in the final minute of the quarter and Murray hit two free throws in the final second to take a 40-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
Murray scored again to begin the fourth quarter, giving her seven of the nine straight points to build a 10-point lead. She scored Dunmore’s first 11 points in the fourth when her 3-pointers created leads of 45-34 and 49-39.
Neumann-Goretti closed to within 49-44 with a minute left, but Delfino added three free throws and Murray two in the final minute.
District 3 champion Trinity (25-2) defeated Imhotep Charter, 47-43.
The PIAA announced Saturday morning that Dunmore would play Trinity in a single game Monday at Pottsville’s Martz Hall at 7.
Dunmore is 28-0. The Lady Bucks have been the top-ranked Small School Girls team in the Astra Wealth Advisors Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams all season. They won Lackawanna League Division 3 and District 2 Class 3A title, then won a second-round state tournament battle of unbeatens with Saint Basil Academy, the team that ended the 2016-17 Dunmore season.
Mahanoy Area 54, Old Forge 40
District 11 champion Mahanoy Area overcame a halftime deficit to knock Old Forge out of the Class 2A tournament in a quarterfinal game at Hazleton Area.
Old Forge used a 12-7, second-quarter advantage to take a 22-20 halftime lead.
Mahanoy Area, however, answered by dominating the third quarter to take a 35-26 advantage. The Lady Bears pulled away from there.
Olivia Ciullo led the District 2 runner-up Lady Devils (20-7) with 11 points. Lindsey Welsh added 10. Abbey Nee hit three 3-pointers to account for her nine points.
Mahanoy Area (26-2) advanced into Monday’s semifinals.