LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County boys basketball team is finding out the hard way what it's like to play in the Mid-Penn Conference. The Huskies' 75-55 loss to Central Dauphin Friday night is a perfect case in point.
Although many factors played into the outcome of the game, one factor in particular crippled the Huskies - turnovers.
Central Dauphin put the high pressure on Mifflin County from the start, and this was just the beginning of the end for the Huskies, as their 16 turnovers in the first half resulted in a 32-25 deficit going into the third quarter.
Sentinel photo by BRALDEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Hunter Wright goes for a layup as Central Dauphin’s Manny Gonzalez swats at the ball Friday evening in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"Clearly, Central Dauphin's goal was to come in here and play extremely physical with us on the perimeter and in the paint," Mifflin County coach Aaron Gingrich said.
The Rams achieved their objective.
In the first quarter, it was fast paced, with both teams sharing steals back and fourth, and it wasn't until two and a half minutes into the game that Central Dauphin finally put two points on the board. A minute later, the Huskies had their first field goal, and things went their way for a bit - the quarter ended with a 13-9 Mifflin County lead.
But in the second quarter, Central Dauphin put on its full-court press, resulting in the Rams outscoring Mifflin County 23-12 in the second to have a seven-point lead going into the break.
Add to this lead the fact that the Rams' Brian Laird had gotten hot offensively, and it was more than the Huskies could handle.
Laird, who had a game-high 26 points, 13 of which were scored in the second quarter, was a driving force behind Central Dauphin's offense.
"The Laird boy is a nice player. He's a very good shooter," Gingrich said. "We did a good job with him in the first quarter, but then lost track of him numerous times in the later quarters."
In the third and fourth quarters, Mifflin County had a few glimmers of hope, but these glimmers were always extinguished by the Rams.
In the third, Central Dauphin got into foul trouble and gave up several points to the Huskies from the charity stripe. But the Rams' 25 third-quarter points to the Huskies' 19 third-quarter points negated the effect this had on the overall score.
In the fourth quarter, Mifflin County brought it within 10 points, but Central Dauphin continued to score well off the Huskies' turnovers, and outscored Mifflin County 18-11 in the fourth.
Gingrich said the type of pressure and intensity Central Dauphin displayed is what his guys can expect from the Mid-Penn. However, even though he expects to see this high intensity pressure time and again, he said his team has many things it can address to better respond to the challenge set fourth by the Mid-Penn teams.
"I think there is the ability of our guys to do a better job against the pressure," Gingrich said. "We put the ball on the floor way too much in traffic. Our screen series were weak - we weren't head hunting people. Our cuts were half-speed instead of full-speed. These are all things that help against pressure and what our team is going to have to be accustomed to in order to succeed against teams who pressure."
Gingrich said he hopes to see his boys step up the intensity as they progress into the season.
On the plus side, several of Mifflin County's players had a double-digit offensive output. Seth Wagner lead the team with 16, and Cy Treaster, Hunter Wright and Curtis Jerzerick all finished with 10.
In the JV game, Mifflin County topped Central Dauphin 50-44. Mifflin County (2-2, 0-2) hosts Shikellamy today.
And then Gingrich talked not about the game, but the big picture: Gingrich said that as the team's thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved in Friday's tragic shooting in Connecticut, it puts the game in perspective and makes him glad that the team's challenges are something that can be addressed and changed, versus the irreversible nature of what many families in Connecticut are facing.