LEWISTOWN - Headed into Thursday's finale to the regular season, the Mifflin County boys basketball team had faced every District 6 Class AAAA opponent but Altoona. Unfortunately for the Huskies, after a night of difficulties putting the ball through the hoop, what they got from the Mountain Lions was a 50-47 loss in the final seconds of the game.
With two free throws from Jaret Berardinelli to put Altoona up by the final three-point margin and 16 seconds to go, Altoona iced the win when Jemaine Samuel blocked an attempted 3-pointer by Evan Seby during Mifflin County's next to last possession.
Samuel, who came away with the ball after the block, was promptly fouled by the Huskies and failed to cash in on the double-bonus opportunity. However, enough time had expired that Mifflin County was unable to put up a threat in its final time down the court.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Hunter Wright (20) gets inside for the layup past Altoona’s Manny Span Thursday evening at Mifflin County High School in Lewistown.
"At that one point near the three-minute mark I thought we started to make our move, and we just kept our composure," said Altoona coach Paul Hasson, whose team outscored Mifflin County 23-16 in the final stanza leading to the win. Altoona was led by a nine-point effort from Manny Span in the fourth to complete his game-high 17 points.
From Mifflin County coach Aaron Gingrich's perspective, although it's easy to point to events in the fourth quarter as the difference in the game, troubles early on were just as important to the Huskies.
"Everybody looks at the end of the game backwards as the difference, but there were many possessions in the first quarter we did the same thing," he said.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County will face State College or Hollidaysburg in the District 6 tournament Monday
In the first quarter, Mifflin County's sluggish offense produced only three points to Altoona's 12. Turnovers and missed shots were at the heart of the Huskies' low score.
"I thought the key tonight was our offensive execution," Gingrich said. "We had a great defensive effort against a solid team, but clearly we did not execute on offense in terms of finishing on the offensive end. Some untimely turnovers and some obvious easy buckets that we did not finish were the difference in the game."
In the second quarter the Huskies started to turn the game around as an early 7-0 run got them back in the game and their defense held the Mountain Lions to just four points, resulting in a slim 16-15 lead for Altoona at the break.
For the Mountain Lions, and injury to Span late in the first meant he sat the entire second quarter, but Hasson thought his team did a good job overcoming the blow.
"I was really proud of them. I told them they really overcame a lot of adversity," he said, pointing out the four-point effort by sophomore Jacob Port as Span's substitute.
By the third quarter Span was back in the game and only managed to score two points, but Mifflin County had hit its offensive stride for 16 points. In the quarter, the Huskies spread out the offense to get buckets from six different players, including a lay-up off a defensive steal from Jack Packer followed by a nice assist to Hunter Wright under the basket for the Huskies' 29-24 lead.
To complete the stanza, Altoona's David Simmons hit the last of his three treys to trail 31-27 headed into the final frame.
"In our eyes we gave one away tonight, but the bottom line is the big prize is still ahead of us," said Gingrich, whose team (12-11) begins the playoffs Monday against either State College or Hollidaysburg.
"Right now we are playing hard, as we rarely get outworked," he said. "If we clean up our execution, the results will come next week."
In JV action, Altoona came away with the 49-20 win.