ENOLA - For the second year in a row, Tamaqua's State playoff battle with Delone Catholic went right down to the wire.
Unfortunately for the Lady Raiders, they were left with a disheartening sense of deja vu.
A year ago, Tamaqua led by four points with under two minutes to go, but Delone reeled off the last eight points of the game to pull out a 44-40 triumph.
This time, it was sophomore Sierra Moore who snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat for the Squirettes.
The 5-11 Moore scored the final four points, the last two on a bucket inside with 13.1 seconds left, to erase a three-point deficit and stun the Raiders, 44-43, in a PIAA Class AA Second Round game on Tuesday night at East Pennsboro High School.
Delone (22-5), the third seed out of District 3, advances to the AA quarterfinals, where it gets a rematch with Lancaster Mennonite (24-5), the D-3 runner-up, which defeated Loyalsock 60-48. Mennonite edged Delone 45-41 in the District semifinals.
Meanwhile, Tamaqua's sensational season came to a sudden end with a 25-3 record, with the three defeats by a combined total of nine points.
"I'm sure there are many coaches around the state who would love to have the ride we had, with the success we had winning District and Schuylkill League championships," said Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick. "So we do have something to show for the year.
"Unfortunately, tonight it came down to a great player making two really good plays at the end to beat us by a point. The disappointment is there, but I don't want that to reflect negatively on my kids' efforts. I told the girls that they have to keep their heads up high for how great this season was."
Delone coach Gerry Eckenrode was relieved to escape with the win.
"I feel sorry for Tamaqua," said Eckenrode. "They deserved to win the game. We did a lot of things wrong out there that they made us do. I'm still amazed we won."
The Raiders fell behind 12-7 in the early going, but were able to break the Squirettes' press, with junior Cassie Eroh netting seven points, to pull within 16-12 after one.
Tamaqua's defense limited the Squirettes to a lone basket and 1-for-11 from the field in the second stanza. Sophomore Kayla Hope harassed Moore (a 1,000 point scorer who averages 21.6 points per game) in the backcourt, while junior Allie Updike worked to contain her around the hoop as the Raiders collapsed on her.
Junior Amy Zehner connected on a triple with 20 seconds left to draw the Raiders even at 18 at half.
Zehner rimmed seven points in the third quarter as Tamaqua outscored Delone 14-11 to jump in front 32-29. A Hope jumper giving them their biggest lead at eight at 37-29 with 6:19 remaining.
Tamaqua still led by five at 41-36 with 2:12 to go, but Delone senior Courtney Riggs snuck inside for a pair of hoops to cut it to one at 41-40 with 1:08 remaining.
Eroh hit a pair of foul shots at the 49 second mark to make it 43-40, but Moore worked inside for a deuce with 29 seconds left, then stole the inbounds pass underneath the basket and put it in for a one-point lead at the 13.1 mark.
The Raiders, who had 22 turnovers in last year's loss, had handled the Delone defensive pressure up to that point, committing just 10 miscues while forcing 17 by Delone.
"That's the thing that really hurt us last year," lamented Berezwick. "We were so aware, so cautious of that, and we did such a fantastic job with it until the very end. That's when it hurts the most. We knew it was coming. It was kind of a replay."
"Big time players make big time plays," said Eckenrode. "Sierra has a shooter's mentality, and she's not going to give up."
On their final possession, the Raiders cleared out for Zehner, but her long jumper was off the rim, and Delone rebounded as time expired.
Moore finished with 17 points, Riggs added 10 and Courtney Hoffman hit on three triples to lead the Squirettes.
Zehner (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Hope (11 points, 10 caroms) had double-doubles and Eroh added 11 points.
HOOPLA - Delone shot 18 of 50 from the floor (36 percent) to 14 for 52 (27 percent) for the Raiders ... Delone held a slim 38-37 rebounding edge ...
Hope 5-1-2-11, Berezwick 0-0-0-0, M. Streisel 0-1-2-1, E. Streisel 0-2-2-2, Eroh 3-5-6-11, Zehner 4-4-6-14, Updike 2-0-3-4. TOTALS: 14-13-21-43.
Hoffman 3-0-0-9, Photiades 1-0-2-2, Schmizzi 0-0-0-0, Gingrow 0-0-0-0, Riggs 5-0-0-10, McMaster 0-0-0-0, Gerlach 0-0-0-0, Hibschman 2-2-4-6, Moore 7-3-4-17. TOTALS: 18-5-10-44.
Tamaqua 12 6 14 11 - 43
Delone Cath. 16 2 11 15 - 44
Three-pointers: T-Zehner 2; DC-Hoffman 3.