Projected starter Meredith Exley has missed the entire season with a knee injury. Starter Katie Bradley missed eight games with an ankle injury. Key substitute Kristi Grandy missed three games with an ankle injury. Freshman sub Gayle Exley has been lost for the season with a broken wrist.
With each lost body, the weight on Lauren Healy's shoulders got a little heavier.
"She's had a lot of pressure on her this year," said OJR coach John McCormick. "She's had pressure handling the ball and scoring for us. She's been learning how to deal with that. Tonight was the first night she broke through."
The senior guard scored a career-high 29 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, made three steals and added an assist as the Wildcats stunned St. Pius X, 53-51, Friday night in a Pioneer Athletic Conference game.
The loss was the second this week in three home games for the Winged Lions (8-2, 11-3), who dropped a game behind first-place Pottsgrove (9-1, 12-2) after the Falcons edged Spring-Ford, 39-37. Owen J. Roberts (7-3, 8-6) pulled into a third-place tie with Lansdale Catholic.
"I just wanted to win this game so bad," said Healy. "I was in a zone. We just wanted to win this after we lost to them the first time by one point. We knew we had a chance of beating them. We wanted to come out strong, together. Everything clicked. We got a good win."
The Lions, coming off an outstanding performance a day earlier in a win over Pottsgrove, were close to blowing the game open in the first half, bolting to a 25-15 lead. They still led by 10, 30-20, early in the third quarter.
"The second quarter we got ourselves in trouble," said McCormick. "Luckily, we kept our composure and fought back. We weren't confident the first half. Whether that was our fault or how well Pius was playing ... The confidence came out of nowhere the third quarter."
So did Healy, who scored 10 points in the period to slice the Pius lead to 40-36.
"I got a little scared (when they fell behind by 10)," said Healy. "We kept fighting. We just wanted it. I don't know how to explain it. I just felt really good."
Healy kept the roll going in the fourth quarter, sinking two free throws and then drilling a three-pointer for a 41-40 OJR lead.
Senior Katrina Brumfield (10 points, six rebounds) took over from there with five straight points for a 46-40 spread.
But the Lions didn't go down easily. Trailing 50-44 with less than three minutes to go, Kristin Bone hit a short jumper at 2:32 and put in a layup at 2:06. Bone then grabbed an offensive rebound, laid the ball back in, was fouled and canned the free throw to give St. Pius a 51-50 lead with 1:31 remaining.
The Wildcats threw the ball away with 1:24 to go. But, with a one-point lead and no need to shoot, Pius missed a driving layup attempt and Brumfield rebounded. Healy sped to the hoop for a layup and a 52-51 OJR lead with 56 seconds left.
Bone missed a pair of free throws with 41 seconds remaining and Brumfield rebounded again. Healy was fouled and converted one of two free throws to make it 53-51 with 25 seconds to go. Rayne Reber (16 points) missed a running, off-balance 15-footer with three seconds left and Brumfield collected the final rebound.
"Owen J. came into this gym tonight in need of a big win," said an angry Pius coach Joe Masleh. "They walked away with not only a big win, they walked away with our morale. They took away our intensity. We must now seek and find it again. It's not going to be easy.
"Miss Healy played like not only All-PAC-10 but All-State. And we allowed it. The problem with big heads is they slow down the feet."