PHOTO GALLERY | Bishop McCort’s daughters gather in front of Westmont Hilltop | Sports

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JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – Bishop McCort Catholic High School’s women’s basketball program began Wednesday night with some milestones close at hand.

The Crimson Crushers closed out a tough Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference contest against concerned rival Westmont Hilltop with just one result – a 52-49 comeback victory over the upset Hilltoppers.

“We worked on mental toughness,” Bishop McCort’s Catholic coach John Hahn said. “You have to play all 32 minutes.”

The Crimson Crushers improved to 9-1 with an 8-0 LHAC record. Westmont Hilltop is 5-4 overall, 4-2 in the conference.

Bishop McCort Catholic standout senior guard Lexi Martin scored six points and is just seven points off the 1,000 mark.

Junior inside presence Bria Bair had 11 rebounds to top a career-high 500 rebounds (503) and added 12 points.

The prospect of perhaps hitting two standards in one night probably pleased home fans on Wednesday, but Hahn and his players made the late rally their priority.

“I said, ‘The W is the most important thing,'” Hahn said. “’We need a stop. We need a shot. Then Lexi said the same to the team. ‘Let’s just go for the win.’ ”

Westmont trailed 29-20 at halftime but received a spark after freshman point guard Christiana Gordon returned to the lineup in the second half. Gordon committed three fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game and went to the bench.

In the third quarter, she had eight of her team-high 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“She’s a great player, a great kid,” Westmont Hilltop coach Brittany Eisenhuth said of Gordon. “She’s an athlete. She’s a player.

“She knew when she got back into the game, she had to make a difference.”

Bishop McCort held a 39-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Hilltoppers surged 8-1 to lead 46-41 with 3:14 remaining after junior Ella Brawley scored.

Beth Buettner converted a traditional three-point play with 1:15 left to give the Hilltoppers a four-point advantage, 49-45.

“That’s how we know how to play basketball,” Eisenhuth said. “Basically it was played out at the last minute and a half.

“We didn’t deal with it. Throughout the match, we knew in front of their press that we had to take care of basketball.

“Turnovers are our greatest kryptonite.”

The Crushers collected the last seven points of the game.

Senior Bailey Shriver (13 points) made a huge 3-pointer at 1:03 to fire McCort 49-48.

After Westmont missed the start of a one-on-one free throw situation, Shriver scored to give the Crushers a 50-49 lead with 31.6 on the clock. She was fouled but missed the free throw.

Sophomore Gianna Gallucci (game-high 15 points) scored on the rebound to give the Crushers a three-point lead with 26.8 points.

“It’s a great basketball team across the table,” Eisenhuth said. “Lexi was aiming for 1,000. They were going through all kinds of stages.

“That’s why I’m so impressed with my girls because they played against such good competition. They are still undefeated in the Laurel Highlands. It’s the No. 1 team and they have the target on their backs every night. Huge respect to their team.

“They played the whole game.”

Both coaches praised Bair, who picked up the injury in the final minutes and assisted off the pitch.

“She’s been great all year. She is stable on the boards,” Hahn said.

Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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