LEWISTOWN - It may not have been beautiful, but it will do just fine for Aaron Gingrich.
The Mifflin County boys basketball coach watched his team surrender the game's first nine points, turn the ball over eight times in the first half and overcome a rough-and-tumble Carlisle squad to earn a 46-41 Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division victory over Carlisle Wednesday night - the first conference win for the Huskies this season.
"People say 'a win's a win' and it might have been an ugly win, but when I look up at the scoreboard and see 41 points given up to a team who scored 74 against a quality State College team, that means we did something well defensively," Gingrich said.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Seth Wagner, (44) and Hunter Wright (20) fight for a rebound with Carlisle’s Jerome Evans (35), Wednesday in Lewistown.
The defense eventually found its sea legs, but not until the Thundering Herd (1-5, 0-4) had stampeded out of the gate to a lightning-fast 9-0 lead in the first three minutes before Mifflin County (4-3, 1-3) had barely managed to hit the rim at the Carlisle end of the floor. The run was thanks in large part to a bevy of Huskies turnovers early.
"In the first half ... we had of the eight turnovers, I'd say at least five or six were unforced, trying to make some crazy passes through the middle of their defense, weak passes under the basket," Gingrich said. "It was just bad decision making on our part and that's what you can't have."
But while the lead seemingly was built in no time at all, it felt as if it disappeared just as quickly - and for the same reason.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to State College on Friday.
Suddenly Carlisle couldn't manage to keep its hands on the ball, and that gave Mifflin County the opening it needed.
Buckets by Seth Wagner, Curtis Jerzerick and Hunter Wright pulled the Huskies to within two before Wagner created some space in the lane for the tying score. The next trip down the floor, John-Michael Maclay's only field goal of the game put Mifflin County in front for the first time with just a minute to go in the opening quarter.
"I thought early in the game we looked very tentative, committed some unforced errors and that hurts you in a tight game," Gingrich said. "But I thought after the first three or four minutes, our guys seemed to wake up, become more aggressive and attacked and I thought we really settled in defensively as much as anything."
But as the second quarter began, it was again the guests' turn to put together a run. Carlisle finished the opening 16 minutes by scoring the last six points, taking a 21-18 lead into the half.
The Thundering Herd picked up right where it left off as Jordan Dockens went on a tear in the third quarter. The guard scored seven of Carlisle's nine points in the period, but as had been customary in the game, Mifflin County was ready to fight back.
Five different players found the scoring column for the Huskies in the third quarter, including a standard 3-pointer from Evan Seby and one the old fashioned way from Hunter Wright that saw the home team push ahead by a deuce at 33-31 with just eight minutes to play.
While the third quarter was a share-the-wealth period, the fourth quarter was more of a two-man show.
After having seen Carlisle jump in front with just over three minutes left, Jerzerick and Wagner took over for the Huskies.
Wagner put home a shot in the lane to give Mifflin County the lead with 1:03 remaining, Jerzerick got one to fall to extend the lead and shortly thereafter - after Cy Treaster forced a Carlisle turnover of all things - Wagner scooped up the loose ball and flushed home an emphatic two-hand dunk to ice it for the home team.
"We only committed 11 turnovers, three of which were in the second half," Gingrich said. "So when it mattered, our guys were tough enough basketball-wise and mentally tough enough to take care of the ball and that's important in a close game."
It was the first win in conference play, but the coach wasn't ready to hang a banner in the gym just yet.
"I don't really put much credibility into getting a first win in a new league," Gingrich said. "To me, our guys won a hard-fought game against a quad-A school on Dec. 19. We're looking to get better, our guys got better (Wednesday) moving forward into a big game against State College."
Mifflin County lost the JV game 50-47. Seby had 12 points in the contest.
The Huskies travel to State College on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. tip.