LEWISTOWN - Although the official scorebook would say there were no wins or losses between Mifflin County and State College when the two faced off at Mifflin County High School on Friday, the two teams might not agree.
In the 2011-12 season, the Huskies and Little Lions split their two regular-season games, and State College made it two out of three with a win in the District 6 Class AAAA tournament. With the teams becoming league rivals this winter, there was no lack of excitement as they prepared for their first of two - at least two - meetings this year.
Unfortunately for Mifflin County, this one ended almost exactly like the previous meeting - in fact, the Huskies scored two fewer points than they did against this team in the playoffs last year. But like the other games, it was close.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE?BOYER
State College’s Kyla Irwin, front, and Taylor Allison, back, try to block Mifflin County’s Rebeka Knable from shooting Friday in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
State College won the game, 60-51, but until the last few minutes of the game, it was a toss up as to which team would win.
At the beginning of the fourth the Huskies had a 40-39 lead, and the teams went neck and neck, scoring back and forth to keep it very close for the first half of the quarter. Then, with 3:15 left to play, Mifflin County's Rebeka Knable sunk two foul shots to give the Huskies a four-point lead, 51-47.
It was the largest lead Mifflin County had yet taken in the fourth, but the Little Lions still had a lot of fight left. Worse yet, there was enough to not only slow Mifflin County's offense, but shut it down.
IF YOU GO
* Mifflin County hosts its Holiday Classic tournament Dec. 28-29
A State College bucket shortened Mifflin County's lead to 51-49, then State College's Jenna Altomare hit a timely 3-point goal, followed by a quick breakaway layup by teammate Kyla Irwin - suddenly, the Little Lions had a 54-51 lead with just 1:35 left in the game.
From there, it was all State College.
"Credit to (State College). They outscored us ... down the stretch the last two and a half minutes," Mifflin County coach Kevin Kodish said.
Kodish said the turning point in the game was when Mifflin County had possession of the ball - and a 51-49 lead.
"We're up two - 51-49 - we had the ball, but we got tentative on offense, spread the floor and started to try to play keep away. They were able to get a steal out of it. We needed to run our man offense there - not shut it down that early. There was just too much time left in the game," Kodish said.
It was one moment of tentative action by Mifflin County that allowed State College to go on its fourth quarter, 11-point streak for the win, but there were other brief periods earlier in the game where tentative play by the Huskies kept the game closer than it might have otherwise been.
In the first and second quarters, especially, Mifflin County had trouble with State College's defense. The Little Lions applied a lot of pressure on the perimeter in their zone defense, and it forced some Mifflin County turnovers early in the game.
This was apparent at the beginning of the second quarter, when State College went on a 6-0 run to make the score 21-13 in the Little Lions' favor.
But despite a few tentative moments, the Huskies always fought back, hitting crucial shots to again make it a game.
In the beginning of the third quarter, the Huskies went on an 8-0 run - a combination of five points from Knable and a 3-pointer from Olivia Halfpenny - overcoming the six-point deficiency they had created in the second quarter to take a 30-28 lead.
Later in the quarter, Halfpenny again came in with the crucial shot, hitting another 3-point goal to give the Huskies a 40-39 lead heading into the fourth.
"We were laying back and not attacking the gaps in the defense, so once we started to get some attack and get some better ball movement, things started to happen for us," Kodish said of the way his team's offensive effort.
In the end, both the Huskies and the Little Lions had their chances, but it was the Little Lions who pulled through with the win.
"They made the plays down the stretch," Kodish said.
With the loss, Mifflin County's Mid-Penn Conference Commonwealth Division record dropped to 2-3, but Kodish didn't think any of the errors his team made on Friday were insurmountable in the future.
"The errors we made are correctable," he said. "The girls fought hard all night, so I'm not going to fault their effort, but our decision making - sometimes we have to do a better job. We need to cut down on the unforced errors."
Kodish said the team is looking to recharge over Christmas break, and to go into the Mifflin County Holiday Tournament ready to play some good ball. The Huskies are also looking forward to the return of teammate Logan Snyder, who missed the early part of the season due to an injury.
"We'll regroup, and we're excited to get Logan Snyder back for the holiday tournament. We want to get recharged, have a nice Christmas break here and then get back and get ready to play some nice ball in the tournament," Kodish said.
In overall scoring for the night, Altomare had a game-high 22 points. Irwin trailed Altomare with 18. Mifflin County's high-scorers were Halfpenny and Breanna Cline, each of whom had 12.
Mifflin County's overall record is 4-3. The Mifflin County Holiday Classic takes place Dec. 28-29.
State College won the JV game 44-30. Mifflin County's Tara Kibe had 11 points.