COVINGTON TWP. — Participating in the 10th annual Pink Game was going to be special for Abington Heights’ Rachel McDonald regardless of the outcome.
The freshman guard made the night even more memorable by knocking down a 3-pointer, in the final minute, to help her team earn the win.
The basket gave Abington Heights a 31-28 lead with 47 seconds left and the Lady Comets held on for a 35-30 victory over North Pocono in a Lackawanna League Division 1-2 girls basketball crossover game Feb. 1.
Rachel’s mom, Kathy, a breast cancer survivor joined other survivors on the court during a pregame ceremony led by Laura Marion, a volunteer and board member of The Foundation for Cancer Care.
“It meant a lot to be able to play in the game this year,” McDonald said. “Making the shot definitely made it more enjoyable.”
The Abington Heights and North Pocono girls basketball teams combined to raise $35,460 for The Foundation for Cancer Care, a new record for funds raised through the game.
“The importance of this game cannot be understated,” Laura Marion said. “The (money) will provide close to 100 free mammograms to women in our community. It will also provide financial assistance to families when they have to incur costs while seeking treatment. One hundred percent of the money stays where it is needed most — with our very own family, friends and neighbors.”
North Pocono (11-8, 4-6 Div. 2) led 7-5 at the end of the first quarter as the teams combined to make just 5 of 24 shots.
Abington Heights senior forward Cassie Ksiazek scored 10 of her team’s 14 points in the second quarter, including a putback, off an offensive rebound, to beat the first-half buzzer.
“I think it gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half,” she said. “We needed something to get us going because our shooting wasn’t good.”
However, it was on defense where North Pocono head coach Corey Valvano felt Ksiazek was most effective. She finished with 12 rebounds and five blocks.
“She really took over defensively in the second half,” he said. “She disrupted and blocked a lot of shots, and controlled the boards very well.”
Freshman guard Clair Marion scored all seven points for Abington Heights (12-7, 7-3 Div. 1) in the third quarter.
“Clair was terrific,” Abington Heights head coach Deanna Klingman said. “She hit a 3-pointer for us and hit free throws.”
Marion also made an impact on the defensive end of the floor with two steals and two blocks, including the one that set up McDonald’s key 3-pointer.
“I really wanted to help my team on defense, considering it was a really close game,” Clair Marion said. “I just wanted to make sure I contributed what I could. It means a lot considering it was the Pink Game.”
After the block, Marion got the ball to Ksiazek who found McDonald for the crucial shot.
“We trusted in each other and gave us each other the ball,” McDonald said. “I was a little nervous, but I had a lot of time to shoot so I just knocked it down.”
Klingman felt comfortable calling McDonald’s number in a high-pressure game.
“She’s in the rotation,” Klingman said. “Sometimes kids aren’t hitting shots and I had to get somebody in there who is pretty confident shooting the ball. She went in, didn’t hesitate and handled the pressure.
“Her mom said (to me) it means so much to her to play in this game.”
Abington Heights senior guard Hannah Kowalski scored nine points, including six in the fourth quarter, but her biggest contribution came on defense. She was tasked with guarding North Pocono’s Jenna Montana, who hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter, in the second half and held her to two points.
“We couldn’t have (Montana) shooting and that was a key to the game,” Klingman said.
Despite coming out on the losing end, Valvano felt the most important number of the night was the one on the check presented to The Foundation for Cancer Care.
“We’ll be able to wash the loss off, but what we’ll take away (most) is that it was a record-setting night,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my girls and Abington Heights for letting us be involved in this game.
“Seeing the support from both communities during the ceremony before the game gave me chills.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.