HOLLIDAYSBURG - Carly Burns' return to the Juniata lineup wasn't exactly quiet.
After missing most of Juniata's quarterfinal win over Tyrone with a shoulder injury, the senior scored 14 points on the night and made her presence felt immediately as the Indians defeated Marion Center 50-44 in a girls District 6 Class AA semifinal game Wednesday night at Hollidaysburg High School.
"I couldn't be more proud of these kids," Juniata coach Meghan Geedey said. "You never know who's going to contribute each night. These kids just fight, and they battle and they play so well together."
Juniata’s Maddie Zendt grabs an offensive rebound between Marion Center’s Kearsten Brocious, left, and Hanna Jo Beer (23) during their District 6 Class AA semifinal game Wednesday in Hollidaysburg.
Juniata coach Meghan Geedey hugs Alyssa Parson as the rest of the bench celebrates the Indians’ victory over Marion Center, which clinched a state berth and a shot at the district title.
Juniata advances to the final, where it will see Bellwood-Antis, a 38-35 winner over top seed Blairsville, Saturday at St. Francis (Pa.)?University in Loretto.
Burns assisted on two of Juniata's first four baskets, added five rebounds on the night and made a critical steal during the first of the Indians' fourth-quarter runs.
The difference for Juniata was two separate fourth quarter runs of six and five, the first of which turned a 38-38 game into a 44-38 Juniata advantage.
Maddie Zendt matched Burns with 14 points of her own and scored four of those to start the 6-0 run that separated the Indians from Marion Center for good.
Just like in its playoff opener, the Juniata offense ran through Joelle Winey early on.
The senior scored six of the Indians' first eight points - all on layups - to give Juniata a quick 8-3 lead with 5:38 left in the opening quarter.
"They went man-to-man at first and we didn't think they had anyone to stop Joelle Winey," Geedey said. "The game plan was to feed her. We fed her and they had to go to the zone."
Marion Center roared back though, snapping off nine straight points to take a 12-8 lead.
The Stingers got a layup from Jennifer Irvin, three free throws from Hanna Beer and two layups from Chantel Glasser.
Zendt stopped the run with two free throws to draw Juniata to 12-10.
After Kearsten Brocious' 3-pointer, Zendt added another free throw to make it 15-11 after the first quarter.
Following another Glasser layup, Cary Burns hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the Marion Center lead back to two points at 17-15.
The Stingers came run back with five straight points though, highlighted by Glasser's 3-pointer, giving them a 22-15 lead, their largest of the night.
Irvin's jumper made the Marion Center lead 26-20 before Burns made a free throw to make the score 26-21 Stingers at the half.
Glasser led all scorers with 14 first-half points while Burns led the way for Juniata with seven.
Juniata quickly erased the halftime deficit when Burns made a layup and Victoria Varner followed with a 3-pointer to make it 26-all with six minutes to go in the third quarter.
Glasser added a leaner to put Marion Center back up 28-26, but Varner answered with another 3-ball to put Juniata ahead.
Glasser answered again for the Stingers with another basket, but that would be the last time she was heard from on the night.
The senior for Marion Center was held to four points in the second half and rarely got into the lane after the break.
"We said no right hand," Geedey said. "We tried to do that in the first half, but give her credit, she gets around the basket and she finishes. We tried to take away her right hand in the second half. Maddie stayed on her the second half, and that's the matchup we wanted."
Mia Oterson scored for Marion Center with two seconds left in the third quarter to make it 34-33 Juniata going to the final stanza.
Beer's drive, layup and the ensuing free throw gave Marion Center a 38-36 lead with 6:46 left in the game.
Juniata answered with two quick baskets from Winey and Zendt to put them back up 40-38 with 5:45 remaining.
Zendt added two free throws and Winey made a layup to finish Juniata's 6-0 run.
Beer stopped the bleeding with a bucket to make it 44-40 before Juniata went a game-sealing 5-0 run over a 20-second span.
Burns drained two free throws then got a steal on the inbounds pass. She was fouled again and made another freebie.
Following a Marion Center foul, Janelle Swartz scored her only points of the night from the foul line to make it 49-40 with 37.2 seconds to go.
Karlie Snyder's last-second drive concluded the game at 50-44 in favor of Juniata.
"We got home and watch this game and see what we've got," Geedey said. "We watch video and work like crazy and try to find a way to beat them."
Notes: Juniata (21-2) had four players in double figures with Varner and Winey each adding 10 points. ... The Indians have not played for a district title since moving into District 6. In fact, Juniata has not been in a district championship since at least 1976, which is as far as available District 3 records go. ... The championship game will pit the third seed (Juniata) against the No. 5 team. Marion Center was No. 7; it ousted No. 2 Westmont Hilltop in the quarters. The Stingers will play Blairsville in a consolation game with the winner getting the district's third state bracket spot.