Closing the gap

LEWISTOWN – For three quarters, the Mifflin County girls showed that they could go toe-to-toe with the Mid-Penn’s best in Cumberland Valley, which came into the contest as one of the top girls basketball teams not just in the Commwealth Division, but in the commonwealth.

The Huskies only trailed by six, 49-43, going into the final stanza. But the Eagles didn’t get to be at the top of the division by accident, and in Mifflin County, they demonstrated why, going on a late 16-2 run in the third and fourth quarters to seal a 69-51 victory.

The tandem of Rebeka Knable, Ashleigh Williams and Jessa Wright finished the night with strong efforts. Knable’s 16 points led the team; Williams tallied 15 and Wright 14. Problem is, just one other player scored from the floor – and she had only four points.

For Cumberland Valley, the Eagles got another strong game from Division I prospect Maddie Torresin. Torresin dominated the offensive and defensive boards and netted a game-high 25 points. Teammate Kelly Jekot finished in double figures with 17, hitting two from behind the arc.

“Maddie Torresin, senior, experience, leadership, Division I, that’s all you need to know,” Mifflin County coach Roger Herto said. “She pounded the glass. I told the girls midway through the fourth quarter that when you look at the video, she is putting on a clinic on offensive rebounds. She single handedly dominated.”

Early on, the Huskies took the advantage, disguising their defense and keeping the Eagles off balance, which worked to their advantage.

It was a back-and-forth battle early on as the two teams exchanged baskets on the way to an 8-8 score. Breanna Cline picked up the Huskies’ first two baskets while Wright and Bryce Papp were a combined four-for-four from the free throw line.

Mifflin County continued to drive the ball down the court with confidence, ending the quarter by going on an 8-2 run and securing a 16-10 first-quarter advantage.

In that run, Williams netted a trey and a lay in while Knable dialed the first of her four long-distance calls on the night.

“We changed our defense up a little tonight. There was a little more sag – we were trying to make them shoot over us. The kids did the game plan very well,” Herto explained. “We went from the first ganme when we tried to go after them. We had two days to implement this (defense) and they did it fabulously. They did a nice job of matching up with them.

“We had Cumberland Valley in our kind of game for a little bit. You could see that we had them flustered to what we were in.”

Defensive reserve Molly Dunmire played a feisty inside game when she came on to the court, forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over and interrupting their rhythm when trying to make a runner in the paint.

In the second quarter Mifflin County still hung tough and went into the intermission tied at 29.

Though the Huskies were outscored 19-13 in the quarter, Mifflin County refused to fold under the pressure and were led by the senior leadership of Knable and Williams. Williams scored seven points. Five of her seven came from the free-throw line while Knable netted a 3-pointer and three free throws, keeping the game knotted as the third quarter got underway.

Coming out of the break, Cumberland Valley started to put things together offensively. Led by Torresin and Jekot, the Eagles tallied 20 points in the quarter while holding Mifflin County to 14.

That left the Huskies still within striking distance going into the final stanza. But another 20-point quarter by Cumberland Valley proved to be too much.

Mifflin County never gave up or quit as Wright came alive to post five hard-earned points and Williams added two while Knable collected one in the fourth quarter.

The effort was not lost on their coach.

“This was a great game for us tonight,” Herto said. “I told them this was a measuring stick. We lost by 38 there and we lost by 18 tonight. When we lost by 38 there it felt like 58. Losing by 18 tonight it felt like a 10-point loss or less.

“We had a little bad spurt there and there a good team and they took it to us. But this is only positives for us. I hate to lose but there is no reason that we can’t run the table,” Herto continued. “They’re growing in confidence. I am seeing smiles now … Tonight was a good step for us. I thought our kids gave everything they had tonight. It was a really really hard fought game by our kids.”

Cumberland Valley also took the JV contest, winning 42-28. Mifflin County (4-6, 2-5) travels to Central Dauphin Tuesday.