LEWISTOWN – It isn’t how you start that matters most. It’s how you finish.
The Harrisburg Cougars found out the truth of that little ditty the hard way.
Mifflin County, down 21-9 after a dismal first quarter, went into grind-it-out mode and eventually wore down Harrisburg, outscoring the Cougars 18-4 in the fourth quarter to come away with a 55-47 Mid-Penn Commonwealth victory Friday evening.
The Huskies (6-6, 4-5), down 45-43 with 3:17 left in regulation, went on a 12-2 run the rest of the way to split the season series with the Cougars (11-6, 5-5).
“We came out very flat and they moved very well. It was very similar to what happened in Harrisburg,” Mifflin County coach Roger Herto said. “They won the first quarter and we won the next three. We gave up 21 in the quarter and that’s not like us, but they ended up with only 47 in the game. The other three quarters were more indicative of what we do.
“I was really happy with the fourth quarter. For the first time in the game we started running some set offenses. We got ourselves some good strokes. I was proud to see the girls execute what we were calling. Character-wise, I can’t say enough about these kids. That was just a great win for us in our home gym.”
The turning point came mid-way through the third quarter when Harrisburg standout Tysha Brown picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench.
Herto switched to a man defense and stifled the Cougars down the stretch, limiting them to 2-of-11 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, I think what really changed things was they got one of their three scorers in foul trouble and when she did, I thought this was the time to go man now,” Herto said. “When that one kid went out, I thought we could play it and start doubling the ball on some pick and rolls. That really changed the game as soon as we went man and started stepping in front of some passes and pushing it up the floor.”
Ashleigh Williams started the late fourth quarter run with a trey, putting the Huskies in the lead for the first time at 46-45. The Husky senior finished the night with 11 points.
Jessa Wright followed up with a layup for a 48-45 advantage, but Quencey Hickerson nailed a jumper to narrow the gap to 48-47 with two minutes left in regulation.
At 1:34, Maggie Wilson hit a jumper near the top of the key, Breanna Cline connected on a huge 3-pointer to make it 53-47 before Williams closed the scoring with a deuce with 45 seconds remaining.
Wright, who thrives in slashing, grinding games like this, was the high scorer with 19 points. The sophomore had 11 of Mifflin County’s 24 first-half points.
“We changed our defense to man and they couldn’t handle it. That was the difference in the game,” Wright said. “We didn’t have enough energy when we started the game. We were very flat. This is the kind of game I like. I was getting into it.”
The first quarter belonged to Harrisburg.
Hickerson, Brown and Alexis Marshall combined to score 19 of the Cougars’ 21 points. Hickerson finished with 18 to lead the visitors. Brown also connectED for double digits with 13.
The Huskies battled back to make it 32-24 at the half, outscoring Harrisburg 15-11 in the second quarter. Wright led the Mifflin County charge with six points.
Rebeka Knable scored seven of the Huskies 13 third-quarter points to trim the deficit down to 43-37 entering the final frame.
“As I’ve said all season long, I like this team. I like the locker room and the chemistry they have. It’s starting to feel more and more like a team. You don’t get that feeling every season,” Herto said. “There is nothing these kids can’t do in this district and there is not another game on this schedule we can’t win, but that also means we can’t just walk out and expect to beat people. We have to earn it.
“Tonight is a good night for them. They should feel good. People look at the schedule and can see we are starting to win games many thought we would lose. I feel like we are getting better. Defensively, I have to give a credit to Bryce Papp. She came in and caused some problems for them. Molly Dunmire came in tonight and changed the game a little bit. She gave us a big lift in the second quarter with a couple rebounds and some blocks. Every kid who took the floor had a part in this win.”
Mifflin County hits the road tonight, its third game this week, to face DuBois.