LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County knew two things about its matchup with Red Lion Saturday night for the final game of the Husky Club Holiday Challenge - Red Lion would be relentless, and a win would put Mifflin County at .500 headed into 2014.
What no one could foresee was that Red Lion would take the game to the final bucket, but that's exactly what happened when a layup from Red Lion's Julia Kendrick at the final buzzer gave her team the 61-59 win.
The fourth quarter started in Mifflin County's favor when after trailing 50-42 at the beginning of the stanza, threes by Rebeka Knable and Jessa Wright plus consistent scoring from Ashleigh Williams had the game tied at 56-56 with 2:30 left to play.
Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
Mifflin County High School’s Rebeka Knable, left, (23) takes a shot over the head of Red Lions’ Courtney Dimoff (25) ... See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
From there the clock wound down until Red Lion hit one foul shot, then began to delay the game until another foul resulted in a 59-56 lead for Red Lion at 0:37. However, the Huskies wouldn't be put away easily, and with eight seconds left Williams - who scored a game-high 24 points - got open and connected for the last of her six total treys to tie the game, 59-59. However, even though the quarter started in the Huskies' favor, it didn't end that way when Kendrick broke away for her layup just before time expired.
"It's tough anytime you lose. And when you look at a game like this that came down to the last bucket - everybody's going to talk about the last play or whatever happens - but basketball is a game of about 80 possessions, and we had a couple that were just not good possession that come to my mind," Mifflin County coach Roger Herto said.
Herto was correct that turnovers were the Huskies' achilles heel Saturday, and this was most evident in the second quarter.
After three-straight 3-point plays from Wright, Williams and Knable had Mifflin County leading 20-19 at the end of the first, the Huskies' flow on offense faltered in the second quarter to give Red Lion a 34-29 lead at the break. In the quarter, Red Lion picked up its defense, and Mifflin County didn't respond well as easy turnovers and miscommunications from the Huskies on their own defensive end gave Red Lion the 15-9 run in scoring and the lead.
"I know the fans they think about the last play - I think about the body of work. We just had a few real silly turnovers again tonight," Herto continued, although he did credit the second-quarter swing in part to adjustments made by Red Lion.
"The other guys are trying to win too, and they did make some adjustments," he said, explaining that throughout the game, he and the staff were drawing up new plays as the teams maneuvered back and forth for the win.
In the third, Mifflin County began to recover from its second-quarter troubles when Williams broke out for 10 of her team's 13 points. From there, the Huskies flowed right into the fourth quarter, where Wright and Knable again joined in for some more aggressive scoring, but ultimately it was Red Lion that walked away with the win.
"I'm disappointed for them; I'm certainly not disappointed in their effort," Herto said of his team. "I'm very proud of the way they played and that they had to fight for it. Their ability to take instruction on a clipboard on the sideline in timeouts is very good. We were drawing up plays in the sand there, and I've got to give them credit for following through and getting things done the way we wanted them to."
It didn't show as much in the score book, but Herto credited Bryce Papp for a solid game defensively, credited Wright with a tough game inside and pointed out Knable's defensive performance against Courtney Dimoff, one of Red Lion's greater offensive threats.
Williams and Knable, who scored 11 points, received all tournament honors at the end of the game. Red Lion's Morgan Kuehne (17), Dimoff (16) and Devan Horka (23) were also named to the all tournament team.
In terms of record, Mifflin County is now at 3-5, but Herto is already looking forward to the next game.
"We'll just have to step forward into 2014," he said. "We had hoped to be at the .500 mark, but we're not, and you got to just shovel that under the rug and move on and get ready to make another game. As soon as that buzzer sounds for me, I'm thinking about Chambersburg here on Friday."
That game with Chambersburg will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Lewistown.