Indians edged by West Perry

MIFFLINTOWN – Not all losses have to be bad.

Moral victories can be found in even the toughest of losses, and on Wednesday night at Juniata the Indian girls basketball team found plenty of positive to pull from a non-league 44-41 loss to West Perry.

Despite trailing 10-1 in the first few minutes of the contest, the Indians battled back from double-digit deficits numerous times in the game to pull it to as close as one in the final stanza.

Also a positive to pull from the game was Juniata’s ability to hit from the charity stripe, even in crunch time. The Indians were clutch, missing only three out of 20 attempts on the night. Eleven of those free throws were by Carly Burns, who scorched from the throw line, making 11-of-12 toward he 13 point total on the night.

Burns also held the Mustangs’ leading scorer, Megan Smith, to just four points in the fourth. Smith finished with a game-high 26 points in the victory.

Victoria Varner, who was shadowed by West Perry’s Madi Urlich, started slow but heated up in crunch time, posting two triples in the fourth quarter, helping her team pull with in a single point.

“West Perry is a very good team with very good players. We knew that coming in. I thought if we played well we would be there in the end and I cannot credit my kids enough,” Juniata coach Megan Geedey said. “We were down 10-1 to start and we got 37-26 and then these kids just battled. They have so much heart. They have so much desire. They leave it on the floor and sometimes loses can be good and we took a lot of positives from this and we can bounce back tomorrow night. This game will make us a better team.”

The Indians trailed by nine going into the final stanza.

After switching into a man-to-man defense to open the third quarter, the dividends started to pay off for Juniata right off the bat. The Indians scored the first seven points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to 37-35.

In the run, Juniata got a triple from Varner, a jumper from Maddie Zendt and to finish off the run Kristen Pray hit a clutch shot off of a steal from Burns.

West Perry went back up by three after Urich hit one-of-two from the free throw.

On the following possession, Juniata cut it back to two when Janelle Swartz hit one-of-two from the line as well, making it 38-36 with 3:13 left.

However, the Mustangs had an answer for everything the Indians threw at them. Emma Harris cut inside the lane and hit a hoop in traffic, giving West Perry a four-point lead with just over two minutes left in the contest.

Varner got the home crowd back into it as she stood at the top of the three-point line and sank a sizzler that hit nothing but net, putting the Indians within striking distance at 40-39.

But big players come up big in clutch moments and Smith did just that as she put her team back up by three on a drive to the hoop. After Burns cut it to one at the line in the final seconds, two free throws put the game on ice.

The Indians fell to 15-2. Juniata is back in action today as it travels to Newport.