Mars Girls Basketball Wins First State Title

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Scoring 36 points and only five in the first quarter is not the recipe for success in a state championship game. But it was one that worked for the Mars girls’ basketball team on Wednesday Night at the Giant Center in Hershey.

The Planets overcame a slow start to win their first state basketball title with a 36-33 victory against Archbishop Wood in the Class 5A Championship Game.

With the game tied at 33-33, Archbishop Wood had a chance to hold the ball for the final shot of regulation. Junior Tai Johnson wasn’t going to let that happen. Johnson telegraphed a pass, drove to the hoop, and converted the championship-winning basket with 4.2 seconds remaining. Johnson also got fouled on the play and completed the 3-point play.

Mars (24-6) trailed 19-14 at the half, but stepped up with its defense to complete the comeback. After allowing 12 points in the opening quarter, the Planets only allowed seven points in each of the final three quarters.

It was a rough shooting night for both teams. Mars went 11 of 34 from the field and 2 of 10 from 3-point range. Archbishop Wood finished the game 11 of 43 and 5 of 20 from three. Mars took advantage of its trips to the free-throw line, converting 12 of 14 attempts.

Sophomore Bella Pelaia led the Planets with 14 points and Johnson finished with 10 points.

Mars entered the PIAA playoffs as the fourth seed out of the WPIAL after losing in the semifinal to Oakland Catholic. The Planets allowed under 40 points in four out of their five state playoff games on their way to the title.