Mustangs prevail over shooting woes

MIDDLEBURG – Midway through the third period, Greenwood’s Lauren Wilson dropped her third 3-point ball through the net, giving the Wildcats a four-point lead – at the time, the best spread anyone had seen all night.

It didn’t last. Midd-West’s Brianna Beiler answered with her lone bucket of the game, and Allie Camp made perhaps her biggest contribution of the night with a pair of free throws to tie it up.

Greenwood held the lead exactly one more time after that, and didn’t hold it long – Midd-West finally found its rhythm behind the charity stripe, scoring nine of 15 second-half points from the line in a 29-24 non-league girls basketball win over the Wildcats in the first varsity game played in the Midd-West High School gym.

“We’re having trouble getting over the hump,” Greenwood coach T.J. Weller lamented. “We get even or down two or three, we seem like we can’t (get ahead). We had a good chance at about nine or 10 points in a row.”

The Mustangs were singing the same song at the other end of the court, though. Camp, who leads Midd-West in scoring, hit just once from the floor; the Mustangs were 11-for-25 at the line, coming on at the end to make that look better.

“At the end of the first half we had quite a few more shots than they did,” Midd-West coach Dave Fadale said. “We didn’t do a great job at the foul line tonight. When we needed to we did make them, and I guess that’s all that counts.”

It was a game where transition was more about the teams themselves than the points scored that way. Both rosters are littered with young players, both are trying to find an identity. Fadale, in his second year, heads up a group that was winless a year ago, while Weller is trying to rebuild after watching several solid seasons come to an end in graduation ceremonies.

And that meant a see-saw through the first half, with Greenwood’s long-distance bill paying the tab while Midd-West relied on what it had in the paint, using the glass to its advantage. When the teams headed to the locker room, it was an even game.

“We’re small, we’re outsized by most teams. I try to get the girls to really concentrate on getting bodies on people,” Fadale explained. “There were a lot of balls we didn’t get right when it was tipped, but we chased it down once it was tipped away.”

Weller admitted the 3-point game isn’t Greenwood’s style, but he wasn’t going to turn off the spigot.

“We take the open shot,” he said. “You want them to be confident, especially when they’re young. If you’re in your range you should be shooting that shot.”

The Wildcats benefit from the return of point guard Anna Weger, one of two youngsters lost early in the season to injuries. She made her second start and third appearance of the season, and that showed positively – Greenwood’s offense was running better. But with plenty of inexperience on the floor, it’s still hit or miss.

“We had a couple little lapses here and there, gave them a couple easy ones. I thought we gave them more easy ones than we were getting,” Weller said.

And, the Wildcats still have trouble holding on to the ball, which proved troublesome late in the game. Midd-West turned the tide on a huge turnover in the final three seconds of the third, when Greenwood’s Hattie Kuhns broke down court to an open net, but got called for traveling before she could get a shot off.

When the ball came back, the Mustangs’ Miranda Heeter drew a foul – the fourth for Greenwood’s Mallory Fortenbaugh at a critical time – and hit one of two to give Midd-West the lead for good.

“We forced a lot of turnovers, we were hustling all over the court trying to get the 50-50 balls,” Fadale said. “They had us outsized a little bit and I thought we did a good job keeping them off the boards.”

Wilson, by virtue of her three 3-pointers, led all scorers with 12 points. Midd-West’s Mikayla Beiler led her team with 11. Heeter ended up with seven, including 3-of-4 at the line.

Midd-West (3-5) hosts Mifflinburg Wednesday. Greenwood (1-10) hosts Lancaster Country Day Friday.