Bridget Smith epitomizes what the Golden Hawks are all about

The senior grabbed 17 rebounds and a had big assist in the fourth quarter as Golden Hawks fought hard for win.

WARMINSTER — Kalista Walters took home a bouquet from Tuesday night's PIAA Class 3A girls semifinal against Villa Maria Academy at William Tennent High School.

Her Bethlehem Catholic teammate Bridget Smith took home a very different souvenir from the Golden Hawks' 44-39 win — a shiner on her forehead that was the size and color of an Easter egg.

Somehow, though, the welt above her left eye offered an appropriate remembrance of both Smith's performance and the type of game it was.

This was not pretty basketball. This was about perseverance, grit and tenacity. Survive and advance, indeed.

Bethlehem Catholic had 26 turnovers and didn't score over the first five minutes and nine seconds at the start of the game and had another drought that lasted for almost the first three minutes of the final period.

And yet, the Golden Hawks kept battling and punched their ticket to Hershey, becoming the first Becahi team to reach the state finals since Dick Schmidt's 1993 team made it to the big stage at the old Hersheypark Arena.

The Golden Hawks (28-2) also ended a six-year drought for Lehigh Valley teams making it to PIAA Championship weekend, earning a slot in the final girls basketball game to be played in the state this season, the 6 o'clock game on Saturday night against District 7's South Park.

Smith only scored six points but grabbed 17 rebounds and had four assists, including a length-of-the-court pass to Walters for a much needed layup with 1:31 remaining.

Walters' basket made it 42-37, Smith added two free throws 12 seconds later, and the District 11 champion Hawks were able to hold on, despite missing four free throws and committing two more turnovers in the final 1:20.

Once the game was over, Smith would have liked to put some ice on her face, but instead was besieged by media and family and friends.

Her bruise, which was the result of a fourth-quarter collision with VMA's Jackie Carlin, was like a badge of honor reflecting how hard she and her Becahi team had to work on the boards and on the defensive end against VMA.

"It definitely wasn't our best game, but we did what we had to do to get the 'W' and move on to Hershey," Smith said. "They have tough girls who play hard. We just had to do the same."

Becahi coach Bill Lanscek always can count on Smith to play hard. She's one of just four seniors on the Golden Hawks roster and was the only one on the floor in the fourth quarter when VMA was making its run, erasing a 31-22 deficit to forge a tie at 34 with four minutes left.

"Bridget and Kalista are the heart and soul of the team," Lanscek said. "Bridget is our senior leader. Everyone looks to her. She's the first one at practice. She puts the girls through their paces.

"Yes, there are still some parts of her game that we're still working on. But you can't find a girl with a bigger heart or someone who does all of the dirty work on the boards and distributes the ball or handles it when she has to."

Walters, who went over the 1,000-point mark with a critical basket in the fourth quarter, appreciates Smith as much as anyone.

"We wouldn't be here without her," Walters said. "She's a great rebounder, she does the dirty work and the things we need to win."

Fred Rice, the Becahi assistant with an extensive background in football, calls Smith "a warrior."

"She's a gamer," Rice said. "I've been at Becahi a long time and she's as tough as anybody. She's what the place is all about. She's a team-first type of kid; the hub of our team."

Rice said he doesn't even like to guard Smith at practice because she's so competitive.

"I guess I just have a hard head because of hitting that soccer ball all of these years," said Smith, a standout soccer player who considers that sport her first love.

But she loves basketball, too, and as a four-year player in the Golden Hawks program, Smith has seen good times and the not-so-good.

Considering the talented underclassmen around her, especially Walters, a sophomore, there will be more titles in Becahi's future.

This is it for Smith, however, and she will be proud to put on her Becahi uniform one last time at the Giant Center.

"This is definitely the best way to end my season and my career," Smith said. "We know we can't go any farther than this. We just have to do everything we can to win."

And if it doesn't go smoothly, look for Smith to do what she can to lift her teammates.

"We always bring each other up," she said. "We made a lot of mistakes tonight, but we never get down on each other. We just put it behind us and look forward to the next play."

 

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