Juniata drops Mid-Penn team

LEWISTOWN – Juniata traveled to the Husky Club Holiday Challenge knowing it would see some big-school competition Friday night, and after a 61-50 win over Mid-Penn Conference member Chambersburg, the Indians had reason to feel good.

With a slim three-point Juniata lead heading into the final stanza, both teams were bordering on foul trouble with eight minutes left to play, but it was Class AA Juniata that played with a calm precision on defense and iced 17-of-22 fourth-quarter foul shots to put away the Class AAAA competitor, 61-50.

“We were clutch at the end of the game foul shooting,” said Juniata coach Meghan Geedey, and this was especially true of Carly Burns, who made six trips to the charity stripe in the quarter to record 8-of-11 shooting en route to the win. In addition to Burns, Janelle Swartz, Victoria Varner and Joelle Winey all collected points from the line to pull the Indians ahead every time Chambersburg threatened to eat into the Indians’ lead.

“I could not be more proud of these kids. That was a very physical game and could have got out of hand easily, and we kept our composure. They tried to get us to play into their style, but I think we really kept our composure,” Geedey said.

But if shooting from the line was key in the fourth quarter, the Indians also had some ice in their veins late in the third to keep Chambersburg under wraps.

After taking a 30-28 lead into the third quarter, Juniata’s cushion started to shrink when greater pressure from Chambersburg on the defensive end, plus a good team effort from guard Darra Walker and post players Lindsay Embly and Jennifer Grove on the offense, had the Indians on the ropes 34-34 with 1:30 left to play.

An easy bucket from Shannon Edwards then gave Chambersburg the 36-34 lead, but it was a lead that would be short lived.

With the clock winding down, Varner got open outside the arc for a college-distance three, then teammate Zendt hit a short jumper to beat the buzzer to put Juniata ahead 39-36 going into the final stanza, where Juniata never again relinquished its lead.

The first quarter featured a 17-point effort from the Indians. They put up plenty of bricks in the stanza, but relied on their defensive effort to keep Chambersburg at bay for only four points.

In the second quarter, Walker – who scored a game-high 22 points – became a catalyst on offense with nine points. Not only did the guard post the most points of any player in that particular quarter, but she also provided a pressure against Juniata’s guards on defense that they did not experience in the first quarter.

“That No. 3 (Darra Walker) is a really good player,” Geedey said, but Walker wasn’t the only player to put up some impressive numbers.

Burns had a team-high 17 points, Zendt finished with 13, Varner had 14, Winey had 10 and Swartz finished with seven. Additionally, Burns and Winey pulled down plenty off the boards, while Swartz was key on defense with several steals.

Geedey credited her team’s cleaned up play after gathering too many fouls in the first half as key in the victory. She also was pleased to see the way her girls played against competition from a bigger league than the Tri-Valley League.

“(Chambersburg) made some good plays, and they kept coming at us. I told the girls before the game started, ‘They play better competition than we do night in and night out. Every night. They play Central Dauphin, they’re playing State College, Mifflin County.’ So this was huge for us to come up here and beat a team like that.”

Juniata (5-0) will play Emmaus, a 78-53 loser to Mifflin County, at 5 p.m. today.

Notes: After Friday’s game, members of the 1963-64 Juniata Joint girls basketball team presented the Juniata Girls Booster Club a check for $900. The Juniata Joint team had a 10-0 record in 63-64 to win the Tri-Valley League title, and will celebrate its anniversary Jan. 24 when Juniata hosts East Juniata. All proceeds were donated by members of the championship Juniata Joint team.