Juniata suffers first loss

LEWISTOWN – The Juniata girls basketball team is accustomed to scoring from all over the floor, but in the Indians’ game against Emmaus in the second round of the Husky Club Holiday Challenge, it was evident early on that shooting underneath against Emmaus’ six-foot tall Kiyae White was not going to be much of an option.

So for four quarters, Juniata battled offensively around the perimeter – working the back door when Emmaus pulled up too far on defense – and drew the game to a 54-54 tie at the end of regulation. But White and her wide wing span came back to bite the Indians Saturday night, when the freshman put up five of her team’s 12 overtime points to hand Juniata its first loss of the season, 66-64.

However, before the overtime period even began, White’s most memorable attack against the Indians was in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

The stage was set for a Juniata win when Victoria Varner hit two foul shots at 0:40 to tie the game, 52-52. Carly Burns then grabbed a defensive rebound on Emmaus’ next possession and made a long pass down the floor to Maddie Zendt, who hit the bucket to put Juniata up 54-52 with just 12 seconds left. White played spoiler, though, when on the final possession of the quarter one of her teammates put up a shot and missed, and White, who was positioned with her back to the basket while battling for possession of the ball, manage to gain control and put up a blind shot to tie the game at the buzzer.

From there, Emmaus outscored Juniata 12-10 in the overtime period to notch the win. A major factor in the period was fouling – both teams were in double bonus by the end – and ultimately it was Emmaus that got the final possession when it needed it.

With just seconds left in the game, Janelle Swartz nearly put the game into a second overtime period when she hit two foul shots to tie the game, 64-64, but as Emmaus moved the ball down the floor, ball handler Elizabeth Wiseley was fouled and put away both shots from the line to secure the win.

“Our kids made lots of great plays all game long, we just came up on the short end of the stick,” Juniata coach Meghan Geedey said.

Some of those great plays came through for Juniata in the second quarter.

After a slow first quarter, Juniata faced a 15-12 deficit going into the second quarter, but quickly took a lead when back-to-back threes from Varner and Swartz, then a quick back door play by Burns put Juniata up, 20-15. For the rest of the quarter, Juniata continued to put up a strong offensive attack, while the Indians’ defense forced Emmaus to take hurried, flat shots to lead to the 27-20 lead for Juniata at the end of the quarter.

In the third quarter, Juniata’s lead slipped when Emmaus put up 22 points, including six from White and 10 from Wiseley, who finished with a game-high 22 points. By the end of the third, Emmaus has a 42-41 lead.

Reflecting on the first loss of the season, Geedey said one of the main lessons the team would learn from the game is the necessity for better time management, although she was also very complimentary of the girls’ effort throughout the game.

“The kids made some great plays throughout that whole game, and obviously we will talk about fixing those mistakes we made when we get back to practice, but sometimes losses aren’t all that bad, and from what we learned from this, we’ll be OK,” she said.

All tournament selections for Emmaus went to White and Wiseley.

From Juniata, Varner and Zendt left with the all tournament hardware. However, throughout the game it was obviously a team effort that got Juniata so close to the win.

Varner hit three of her team’s six 3-pointers en route to her team-high 18 points, while Swartz, Zendt and Burns all collected 13 points each. Joelle Winey finished with four points, and as one of Junita’s post players, was key on defense dealing with Emmaus’ size advantage over the Indians.

Juniata (5-1) will travel to Millersburg Jan. 2.