WINGATE - The Mifflin County girls basketball team had its hands full in the District 6 Class AAAA semifinals Saturday in a rematch with the two-time defending champion Hollidaysburg (22-3) at Bald Eagle Area high school.
Despite a solid showing in the opening period, the Golden Tigers were too much for the Mid-Penn newcomer and the Huskies fell 58-43.
The Huskies (11-12) came out scrapping on defense and moving the ball well offensively. Brianna Cline got things started with a 3-pointer and Olivia Halfpenny dropped one of her own from 3-point land, which propelled the underdog Huskies to an early 10-7 lead. The Golden Tigers fired back as Morgan Jennings came off the bench to catch a lob pass that she promptly bounced off the glass and through the iron.
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
Mifflin County’s Ashleigh Williams, left, drives the lane past Hollidaysburg’s Lexi Servello during their District 6 Class AAAA girls basketball semifinal game Saturday at Bald Eagle Area.
"Jennings is phenomenal," Mifflin County coach Kevin Kodish said. "I don't know how you keep her off the floor - if that's a player coming off the bench for you, you're pretty good."
Jennings' entry was prompted by the Golden Tigers' go-to post player, Morgan Griffith, being sidelined early with two fouls. This scenario occurred in a win for the Huskies a year ago, and Kodish's squad was hoping for the same result Saturday.
"Last year we played them twice - they beat us at their place and it was very similar to this where Griffith got two fouls when we beat them at our place - it was kind of following a script there and it was right around what we wanted at 22-21 which was right where we wanted to be," Kodish said.
But Hollidaysburg turned it up a notch in the second period, forcing nine Husky turnovers, which helped the top seed to a 9-0 run. The Huskies' scoring drought was finally broken by virtue of a Logan Snyder drive to the lane where she was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. Snyder missed the front end but converted the second. Hollidaysburg finished the dominating second quarter with a 12-1 run in the final four minutes, taking a 34-22 lead heading to the intermission.
A cold start out of the locker room didn't help.
"Our goal at halftime was to cut it from 12 to six by the end of the third but the first five minutes of the third quarter they scored three and we didn't score any so the lid was on there," Kodish said.
Although the Huskies were able to limit Hollidaysburg's scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of the third, the turnover battle was being won by the opposition which led to easy buckets.
"Once the turnover bug bit us, they started to generate some (turnovers) and getting some easy baskets," Kodish said. "One time they had a 3-pointer and then a steal on the inbound so they got five points in three seconds."
The 12-1 run that ended the first half was stretched to 15-1 in the third until a Snyder layup with 2:50 remaining. Halfpenny converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Rebeka Knable contributed a layup to bring the squad to within 10, 39-29.
The Huskies were finished scoring for the period though as the Golden Tigers retained control, stretching the floor and holding for the final shot. Mifflin County forced a turnover but gave it right back, sending Susie Ellis to the line to shoot two with 3.7 seconds to go in the third.
Each time the Huskies knocked down a field goal, the Golden Tigers answered. The final stanza started with a Halfpenny jumper but Hollidaysburg's Courtney Storm reciprocated with a bucket of her own, maintaining a 13-point lead. The Golden Tigers kept the heat on as they floated entry passes into the post for two easy buckets and a Hannah Mercer layup stretched the lead to 17. Trying to battle back, the Huskies managed to get some good looks but had difficulty sinking their attempts.
"You can't get back into the game if you can't put the ball in the hole," Kodish said.
Snyder, playing in her final game, netted nine points for the Huskies while fellow-senior Halfpenny contributed 13. Sam Hendricks scored on her last field-goal attempt of her career and finished with two points.
"I had three seniors on the floor and they all made their last shots of their career which was nice - Halfpenny made a three which is a pretty signature shot for her so it was nice to see her end it that way," Kodish said.
"I can't say enough about the seniors - they kept the squad together. It was a tough first season in the Mid-Penn adjusting to that level of play - we had our ups and downs but we got better as a team," he added.
The Huskies' 11-12 finish marks only the second time since Kodish tool the reins at Lewistown for the 1984-85 season that a team he coached has finished with a sub-.500 record.