The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's basketball team (17-9, 13-6) has gotten off to a slow start in essentially every game this season. However, they always fought back, winning the majority of them.
On Wednesday night, in front of hundreds of people, the Panthers did it again.
Third-seeded Pitt-Bradford trailed by 13 heading into the final quarter and came all the way back to beat sixth-seeded Pitt-Greensburg (10-16, 8-11), 80-72, in the opening round of the AMCC Championships.
"I am so incredibly proud of the way we fought back tonight. It would have been easy to just pack it in with all that we have been through down the stretch and especially after we got out to a slow start tonight," said Pitt-Bradford head coach Sean Brown Sr. "We didn't give up and we showed so much heart.
Coach Brown was also quick to credit the Pitt-Bradford crowd for providing an incredible atmosphere in the KOA Arena.
"We knew we were going to get a nice crowd, but we didn't know we would get this many fans out tonight," Brown said. "There were times in the fourth quarter when our players couldn't even hear the plays we were calling out to them, but honestly, we wouldn't have it any other way. We don't win this game without their support."
With the victory the Panthers move on to the final four and travel to La Roche to face second-seeded Penn State Behrend in the semifinal round at 3 p.m. in Pittsburgh. The winner of that game will then meet the winner of the other semifinal between top-seeded La Roche and fourth-seeded D'Youville in the AMCC championships game Sunday at 1 p.m.
Ali Rinfrette proved more than worthy of her recent AMCC Player of the Week honors, pouring in 36 points and adding seven assists and six rebounds. Brittany Watts had a career night, scoring 22 points and adding 11 boards for her first double-double of the season. Abby Brate had another great game running the offense, posting seven assists while adding three steals on the defensive end in the victory.
"Brittany Watts was absolutely phenomenal tonight. We don't win that game without her. We were finally able to get her ball and she was so dominant in the post tonight. She has been working hard all season and it's great to see it pay off like it did tonight," Brown said. "Also, I can't say enough about the night Ali had. She has been outstanding all season and she is getting better and better. She's scored more than 100 points in the last three games and she is such an outstanding leader on and off the floor."
Chianti Sivek led the Bobcats with 19 points and six rebounds while Sylvia Stuart followed with 14 points and Emily Nelson added 13 points and seven boards in the loss.
The Panthers shot more than 50-percent from the floor in the final half and outscored the Bobcats 34-13 in the final 10 minutes to capture the victory.
The 34 points the Panthers posted in the fourth were the most points the offense has put up in a single quarter all season.
"Assistant coach Kim Rublee was awesome tonight," Brown said. "She came to me before the fourth quarter and suggested we make a few changes. We went with those changes and every single one of them worked."
The Panther's defense forced 22 Bobcat turnovers with the majority of them coming in the fourth quarter, and committed just 11 turnovers on offense in the victory.
"We are at our best when our defense is forcing turnovers and we played the best defense we have played all season tonight in that fourth quarter," Brown said. "It's great to be moving on and I am excited about the opportunity we have to play in the final four this weekend."