Setting the Stage: 78 days & 112 games. That was the schedule load since Day 1 of scrimmages/games in NY, and with how active my home state has *finally* been, none of those days were spent in Pennsylvania. That changed on Monday, as Day 1 of a two-day PA swing took me to Back Mountain territory outside of Wilkes-Barre. At 13-3, Lake-Lehman’s made the most of a unique, talented group with a successful regular season. One of those blips on the radar came at Nanticoke (11-8) earlier in the season when Riley Baird went off for 42 points and they overcame a 13 point halftime deficit to take a 70-58 win. The Knights took their home floor with payback on their minds – but if they were to do it, it had to be without Bloomsburg bound standout Chase Purdy, who was recently lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Lake-Lehman 63, Nanticoke 39 (PIAA District 2)
75 Words or Less: Size, length, activity, Claire buckets. Even without the 5’11” Purdy, Lake-Lehman’s size & length is impressive, and they played to their strengths with a swarming defensive effort and punishing power around the rim & on the glass to break away in the middle quarters. Claire Dougherty dropped 29 including her 1,000th late to lead the charge offensively, and Brenna Hunt added 14 in a strong overall showing for L-L. Riley Baird led Nanticoke with 14.
THE FULL STORY
The most notable sight before the game was the absence of Purdy in the layup lines – with her recent injury, Lake-Lehman is still early in the process of adjusting to different roles & responsibilities without her. By the end, one of the most notable sights may have been her hopping across the court to celebrate a well-earned teammate milestone.
The contrast of styles & attacks made itself apparent from the jump, with Lake-Lehman’s size & length lending itself to the interior while Nanticoke looked to air it out from the perimeter. For the first six minutes, the teams traded points in groups of three as L-L free throws & buckets from inside the arc were exchanged with Nanticoke treys. By the end of that exchange, the hosts already had four starters in the books and Shaylee Heffron (Nanticoke 2023) hit her second three to tie it at 9. Lake-Lehman wrapped up the opening frame with consecutive buckets from Hailey Kline (Lake-Lehman 2023) and Claire Dougherty (Lake-Lehman 2022, Holy Family commit) to head into the huddle up 13-9.
Lake-Lehman extended that into a run in the 2nd as Nanticoke endured a long scoring drought. The Knights got makes from Brenna Hunt (Lake-Lehman 2024), Ella Wilson (Lake-Lehman 2025), and Dougherty to wrap a 10-0 run before a Nanticoke free throw closed a stretch of nearly 6 minutes without a point. The field goal drought went another 30 seconds before Heffron canned her third trey and the visitors eventually cut it to 6, but Lake-Lehman found some comfort in the half’s closing minutes against a Nanticoke 1-3-1. Dougherty banged a corner three, Hunt scored on a broken play & then added another bucket just before the break to stretch their lead to 28-15.
It took the hosts a few possessions to get back in the books in the 2nd half, but once they did, they started to run away. Nanticoke could only cut it to 10 on a Riley Baird (Nanticoke 2022) three before the Knight run took hold, as Kline & Dougherty combined for 9 in their 11-0 stretch to push the lead to 39-18. Two more Dougherty buckets late in the quarter extended the margin to 23 before a final Nanticoke push made it interesting. As was the case throughout, it started from beyond the arc. Claire Aufiero (Nanticoke 2024) canned a three with :42.5 left in the quarter, and after a Wilson answer for Lake-Lehman, Baird was fouled on a last-second long three. She sank all three with :00.4 left on the clock to inch Nanticoke’s deficit back into the teens at 45-26.
And the barrage continued into the 4th, with Baird contributing 5 more points – including another three – in an 8-0 spurt to start the final frame. The extended run was 14-2 as Baird’s last bucket made it 45-34 with 5:40 left. Dougherty & Aufiero traded points to keep that margin before Lake-Lehman pulled away for good. A 6-0 spurt pushed it back to 17 with 3:30 left, and less than a minute later, it was milestone season. Lake-Lehman broke the press, Wilson settled it until she found & hit a streaking Dougherty for a bucket around the rim with 2:37 left to give her 27 for the game and 1,000 for her high school career. After a brief celebratory moment, it was all administrative from there as Lake-Lehman scored the last 8 points & ran to the finish.
Claire Dougherty pumped in a game high 29 points, including the aforementioned 1,000th point in the 4th quarter. She currently sits at 1,002. Brenna Hunt had a strong outing and joined her in double digits with 14. Nanticoke had three players finish in double figures – Riley Baird led them with 14, Shaylee Heffron added 11, and Claire Aufiero chipped in with 10. 24 of their 39 team points came from beyond the arc, and another 3 came at the line when fouled shooting a three.
Next Up: This was the first of a three-game week as Lake-Lehman wraps up their regular season. They’ll head to Wyoming Sem on Wednesday and follow it with a trip to Wyoming Area on Friday. Nanticoke hosts Hanover Area on Wednesday and wraps up their regular season against Dallas the following Wednesday.
- First, congratulations go to Claire Dougherty on the 1,000 point milestone. I wasn’t aware of this potentially being the game coming in, but I had a feeling once the 4th quarter hit – a sign that I guess I’ve been doing this too long perhaps. The Lake-Lehman faithful were cheering way too excitedly for 47-34 free throws and 51-36 & 55-38 buckets in the 4th for it to be “normal”. It felt different, and it was different. Claire is someone that caught my eye pretty quickly when I really started to hone in on northeast PA in 2020. I generally saw her on the AAU circuit with NEPA Elite, where she showed well for the last couple years and parlayed her exploits into a Division II commitment at Holy Family in Philadelphia. They have someone coming in with some natural abilities to work with that can be a luxury at the D2 level (not a direct comparison in skillset, but Emma Brinker at LeMoyne comes to mind with the naturals). Looking forward to seeing how she progresses at the next level.
- A quick thought on milestones. To any of my lovely New Yorkers reading this, it’s a little more difficult for PA folks to put up big career scoring numbers. Unlike *most* of New York (I know there are certain school/league exceptions), PA only allows four years of high school ball – no 7th/8th graders on varsity, regardless of talent level. It might not affect the 1,000 point numbers as much, but it does impact the gaudy career scoring totals. Not as much 2,000-2,500 going on in the Keystone State – the ones that put up numbers in middle school (Dani Haskell, Jackie Piddock, and currently 7th graders El’Dior Dobere & Loren Green come to mind) wouldn’t be allowed to on this side of the border. Just an interesting tidbit learned when able to compare states.
- It gutted me to hear about the Chase Purdy ACL/meniscus news in the days leading up to this trip. The versatile Lake-Lehman standout is throwback tough, fun to watch, and easy to root for with how she works. Happy to see her planning to take her playing days to the next level in the Division II ranks at Bloomsburg. At the same time, it was a good opportunity to see the youngbloods Ella Wilson & Brenna Hunt have to take on some more responsibility on the offensive end. Just wish it wasn’t for that reason!
- Speaking of Ella & Brenna… the Lake-Lehman future is in good hands. They’ll graduate Claire & Chase, who have been program cornerstones for a while, but it’ll go from a frontcourt-oriented team to a wing-driven group behind young players with tremendous upside. I thought Brenna had a tremendous game – exceptionally gifted athlete with length, some explosiveness & great bounce, tough in transition, played some PG which I don’t think is natural to her but she handled it, got to the rim, showed flashes of the midrange game that caught my eye at the EST fall event in October. I haven’t watched her a lot, but each time, she’s caught my eye in a good way. As far as Ella goes, I’ve seen her enough already to know that she checks my boxes in what I look for in a player, particularly at the wing, but I was most impressed by her maturity in this game. I think she would consider this an off shooting game – everything was close, inside of the rim on basically every perimeter J, just an inch short or long. In the game of inches, her 7 points could’ve easily been high teens/low twenties. That messes with a lot of freshmen. It seemingly didn’t bother Ella, who continued to play well and impacted the game in pretty much other way. Covered a lot of ground on D, a couple great closeouts & blocks, impactful on the glass, made correct reads & good decisions with the ball. I feel like I talk about controlling the controllables a lot in these articles – she did that and made an impact without it being a big scoring night for her.
- First time watching Nanticoke and I’m pretty sure any of its players. I’ve read some stuff about their perimeter shooting prowess and obviously Riley Baird’s 42 point/8 three game against L-L in January sticks out. But yeah… point taken. They air it out, and yes, they can knock it down. Lake-Lehman’s matchup 2-3 was geared for Nanticoke shooters – stay glued, don’t help much on high/low post touches and let your big handle that. They got maybe a dozen quality looks from deep and still found a way to hit 8 threes, and it wasn’t just Baird as Shaylee Heffron hit 3 as well and a couple others knocked one down. Usually when the margin is close to 20 at the end of the 3rd in a high school girls’ game, bag it. It’s a wrap. I didn’t feel that way here, even with the swarming L-L defensive effort. Definitely got the ‘no lead is safe’ vibes, which is a dangerous kind of team to play against.
- Nanticoke switched it up and gave their hosts some different looks defensively. If I learned anything, it’s probably not to go 1-3-1 against Lake-Lehman. Outside of maybe 2-3 possessions where I thought they overpassed, they looked pretty comfortable and generally got the shots they wanted against it. I thought Nanticoke had their most success matching up against them, which came later and I understand why – probably don’t want to leave your smaller frontcourt on an island against Claire Dougherty. It at least got them out of a rhythm for a while, and that was part of the mini-momentum swing that trimmed their deficit from 23 to 11.
- Even without the physical presence of Chase (5’11”), Lake-Lehman is big. And long. Newark Valley in the NY Southern Tier and Cardinal O’Hara out of Buffalo are the only teams I’ve seen this year that come to mind in regards to matching up with their physical attributes. Claire is probably in the 6’2″ range, Hailey Kline maybe 6’1″, Ella Wilson at or pushing 6′ with above-average length, and even Brenna Hunt, who’s 5’7″-5’8″ish, has exceptional length for her height and plays taller. That aforementioned matchup 2-3 makes sense for them. My first time watching them, but clear to see that it’s not a simple task getting consistent production against them in the half-court.
- There was enough from this game that I could keep making points, but this is long enough. Enjoyed my ratchet Waffle House stop to end the night, enjoying my Zummo’s stop as I type this out, and I’ll continue to enjoy my NEPA trip as always until tonight’s stop at Western Wayne. Day 1 in the books!