Indians’ 1st trip to states short after opening-round loss

MOON TOWNSHIP – The 2013-14 campaign has been a storybook season for the Juniata High School girls basketball team. The team captured the Tri-Valley League title, advanced to the District 6 Class AA title game and earned the program’s first invitation to the PIAA playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Indians Friday night, a Hollywood-type ending did not develop as defending Class AA state champion Bishop Canevin earned a 61-30 victory over Juniata in the opening round of the state tournament at Moon High School.

Bishop Canevin advances to the western quarterfinals and will face Karns City (24-1) Tuesday night. Juniata ends its season at 21-4.

“Obviously, it’s bittersweet because we did not want this to be our last game,” Juniata coach Meghan Geedey said. “Every team left in the state is going to end their season with a loss except one in every class. It’s not easy, the finality of it all and knowing it’s over.

“On the other hand, this team has achieved so much and raised the bar so high for Juniata girls basketball,” Geedey continued. “They’ve done it with a lot of hard work. I could not be more proud of what they’ve been able to achieve this year. We ran up against a pretty good team that’s a state championship-caliber program with some really good players.”

Bishop Canevin jumped out to an 11-0 lead midway through the first quarter as the Crusaders turned seven Juniata turnovers into eight quick points.

Victoria Varner got the Indians on the board with the first of her three 3-point goals but Canevin closed the quarter on a 9-2 run and led 20-5 after eight minutes.

Canevin had not played since falling to Seton-LaSalle in the District 7 semifinals February 25.

“You’re always concerned about that when you have a 10-day layoff,” Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “We have a lot of young kids who were on the team last year but this is really their first taste of the playoffs.”

Canevin committed just three first-half turnovers while forcing Juniata into 14 turnovers during the first two quarters. The Crusaders led 33-10 at halftime.

“Normally, we have a lot of turnovers, so to have only three was kind of unusual,” Joyce said.

Canevin led 52-14 after three quarters. Juniata outscored Canevin 16-9 in the fourth period.

Varner and Carly Burns each led Juniata with nine points. Both players had six rebounds apiece. Maddie Zendt and Joelle Winey each pulled down eight rebounds, helping the Indians own a 34-31 edge on the glass.

Johnie Olkosky led Canevin with 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Erin Joyce, the coach’s daughter, added 15 points.

Juniata shot 11-for-40 (28 percent) from the field while Canevin went 25-for-56 (45 percent).

Juniata will graduate Burns, Alyssa Parson, Kristen Pray, Winey and Zendt from this year’s team.

“These seniors are going to be missed so much. It’s really hard for them to understand that this is their final high school game,” Geedey said. “I just told them in the locker room that they are going to do great things because they are great young ladies who have incredible work ethic and determination and their character is going to carry them.”

Varner and Janelle Swartz are the two non-senior starters for Juniata, which also played underclassmen Emily Clark, Rylee Duck and Amber Myers in Friday night’s game.

“This team has set the bar high,” Geedey said. “Winning breeds winning. I think a lot of kids want to step up in those roles and they see what it takes. I think the future is bright.”