LEWISTOWN - When the Mifflin County girls came off the basketball court the victors of Friday's 53-36 game with Central Mountain, coach Kevin Kodish was a little concerned.
Although the win advanced the Huskies to the championship round of the Mifflin County Holiday Classic, Kodish said the girls were a little too sluggish on defense.
On Saturday, however, Kodish didn't have a thing to worry about.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Kylee Cassatt (4) dribbles around Imhotep Charter defender Ashley Murray Saturday evening in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The Huskies came out with a lot of intensity from the start, and took a big 65-37 win over Imhotep Charter to win the tournament crown for the second year in a row.
The victory was a strong, whole-team effort - with four Mifflin County players, including Logan Snyder, Ashleigh Williams, Olivia Halfpenny and Breanna Cline all scoring double digits - but the game was really defined by the Huskies' first half performance.
In the first half, not only did Mifflin County have a high offensive output, going up 41-17, but the defense made it impossible for the Panthers to put up many points of their own.
Mifflin County started the game in a full-court press, and the steals earned from this pressure resulted in many Husky buckets. Williams, Halfpenny and Molly Dunmire all had steals for the Huskies within the first quarter, which was the result of the bad Panther passes in reaction to pressure put on by the Huskies.
This high-pressure, quick defense pleased Kodish.
"Overall I was very pleased with the defensive efforts," he said. "I thought our hands were active, we got a lot of steals, we didn't give them a lot of extra shots on offense and we were able to get the defensive boards most of the time, so I credit the girls with that. They did a solid job."
In the second quarter, Mifflin County put up 22 points for the big lead going into the half, and more than half of these points came from beyond the arc. Whether it was Halfpenny, Cline or Knable, the Huskies were finding ways time and again to light up the board with a three.
"Four players in double figures once again. So sharing the basketball and finding the hot person - I think we did a good job of all that," Kodish said.
Yet, despite all the Huskies' scoring and steals, if they had one weakness on the night it was their slower third quarter.
In the third, Imhotep Charter put up its best offensive effort, outscoring the Huskies 16-13, and this was largely because several different Panthers started to get hot offensively.
In the earlier quarters, the Panthers had relied on one or two people to put together their scoring effort, but in the third Ashley Murray, Deja Reynolds, Destany Russell and Dayzha Davis all hit for the Panthers. Reynolds, an all-tournament selection, hit eight of her team-high 10 points in the third.
By the fourth quarter, however, the Huskies recovered from their slight defensive lapse, and shut Imhotep Charter down to just four points in the last eight minutes of the game for the final score of 65-37.
"(Imhotep Charter) is a very athletic team, which is good," Kodish said, explaining that he thought the game provided his girls with some good competition before getting back into the regular schedule.
"They struggled with their shooting percentage obviously, but it was an uptempo game, a physical game and they had a lot of athleticism, so it was good to play an opponent that brings all that to the table," Kodish continued.
During the awards ceremony, the Huskies were amply noticed for their performance, as Knable, Williams and Cline, who scored a game-high 16 points, all received all-tournament recognition. In addition, Logan Snyder was named the outstanding offensive player of the tournament, and Olivia Halfpenny was named MVP.
Kodish couldn't have been more complimentary of Halfpenny's performance in the tournament.
"She did a lot of hustling on the glass, she had good work defensively, she hit the open shot when she had it and she also had some nice takes to the basket going down the lane and they were to draw some fouls," he said.
"She's played solid all around basketball. She's worked her whole life for something like this, so I'm really happy for her to see her reap those rewards."
There was no third-place game, as Central Mountain did not return Saturday due to inclement weather. Since both of the other schools were present, the Huskies played JV contests against both in addition to the championship game. In JV matchups, Mifflin County won 65-20 against Frier Charter. Maggie Wilson had 13 points. In the second game, Mifflin County topped Imhotep Charter, 58-22. Tara Kibe had 17 points and Elizabeth Eddy contributed 11.
Mifflin County (6-3) hits the court again for a Mid-Penn Conference game on Friday when the Huskies travel to Chambersburg.