LEWISTOWN – Slow and steady wins the race.
At least it did Saturday for the Mifflin County boys basketball team. Slowing down an up-tempo New Hope Academy by playing a patient offense and a stingy defense was the difference for the Huskies in the non-league victory, 60-54 over the highly touted charter school.
In the game, Mifflin County went to the free throw line 43 times, making 26 of them, while the Mighty Ants only were able to reach the charity stripe six times. In the end, the Huskies made the most of their opportunities against one of the top small-school teams in the state.
Leading the way for Mifflin County was led Evan Seby, who tied with New Hope’s Montrel Morgan for game high score. Each tallied 17 points. Seby came up big for the Huskies when it counted, hitting eight points from the field and two from the free-throw line for a 10-point effort in the final stanza.
“I was particularly proud of that coming off a zero-point performance Friday night,” Mifflin County coach Aaron Gingrich said of Seby. “He was a big factor in our win.”
Teammates Curtis Jerzerick and Hunter Wright both took it to the hoop numerous times, finishing with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Jerzerick and Wright went to the free throw line 13 time each in the win.
Wright finished the contest with a double-double, pulling down 16 rebounds to go with his 12 points.
Offensively, Mifflin County committed only 15 turnovers the entire contest.
“Although the box score showed that shot a lot of foul shots, everyone of them was a legitimate foul,” Gingrich said. “We told our guys if your strong with the basketball and take care of it, you will get the call. New Hope played Trinity Friday night and Trinity shot 52 fouls. So that’s a trend and a consistency of the style they want to play. They want to turn it into controlled chaos and the more composure we have within that the better we’ll be. I thought today we took care of the ball, made our foul shots when it counted and defended down the stretch.”
It was make or break time for the Huskies as both teams went into the fourth quarter knotted at 39 points apiece.
Mifflin County finished the game defensively, much like it started, cramming the lanes and refusing to allow an easy runner in the lane for a second chance rebound and another chance at a score. Seby scored six of his points in the run.
The defense sparked the offense as the Huskies came out and went on 9-0 string to open the quarter, giving the home team a little breathing room.
However, the Mighty Ants went on a small run of their own to cut the lead to just five on two downtowners by Morgan, making it 50-45 with 3:47 left.
But the Huskies controlled the ball and allowed time to run off the clock while looking for a safe shot attempt.
Though the Ants would keep it to within six, they never really got a chance to get back in the game.
“No matter what defense we are in, protecting the paint is the main priority. We wanted to protect the paint and eliminate second chance opportunities. I thought for the most part we did that tonight,” Mifflin County coach Aaron Gingrich said. “They (New Hope) have a couple of very nice players and we lost them several times and sometimes the just made tough shots but I thought for the full 32 minutes we contained, rebounded well and were strong with the ball.”
In the beginning, the Mifflin County’s defense dominated, preventing New Hope from picking up any points from underneath the bucket, or for that matter stopping them from being able to knock any in from inside the paint.
Offensively, the Huskies started off hot, bucketing 19 while holding the Ants to just eight points.
Despite playing on back-to-back nights, the locals looked no the worse for wear.
New Hope battled back in the second quarter and third quarters, outscoring Mifflin County 21-14 and 12-6, respectively.
But when it mattered Mifflin County came up with the stops it needed.
The Huskies will be back in action Tuesday when they host Central Dauphin.