Reach for the top
Juniata tops East leader to take TVL?lead
MIFFLINTOWN –It wasn’t exactly a must-win game for Juniata, but it sure felt like it.
The Indians responded nicely in a 59-44 win over Upper Dauphin in Tri-Valley League girls basketball.
The teams are atop their respective divisions in the league, so this game — the only meeting between the two in the regular season — establishes Juniata’s position in the pecking order.
Coach Kevin Kodish said Thursday’s contest was more of an eye test to see where the team stands going up against some of the better competition the league has to offer.
“This was a very big game because when you’re facing the best team from the other side, you want to see where you stack up. You want to perform well and get the win,” he said. “More importantly, you’re thinking about the playoffs and at the end of the year, they take the top two teams from each division with the first team hosting the second place team from the other side so we want to make sure we get the home game in the first round of the playoffs.”
Juniata couldn’t get much separation going in the first half with the Indians going into the locker room with a five-point lead — up to that point the largest gap of the game — but the same couldn’t be said in the third and fourth quarters.
Juniata (11-1, 6-0) never relinquished that lead, and for the most part, was never in fear of doing so.
Josie Swartz began the second-half attack on her own, opening play with a 6-0 run. It didn’t stop there for the senior as she continued to have her way with the Trojans on both sides of the court.
A number of times, Swartz got defensive takeaways near half court, turning those into easy baskets. Then when challenged, she found ways to make Upper Dauphin pay.
An example of that came when three Trojans were covering Swartz near their own key in the third quarter in hopes of cutting into the deficit and slowing down her production some. Swartz got out of it with the basketball and went coast to coast for an easy layup.
“We moved the ball better on offense in the second half, and switched it up defensively, going with 3-2 before going man late,” Kodish said. “We were giving them way too many opportunities in the 1-3-1 and they were killing us on the boards in the first half. … We were moving the ball around more and that opened our offense up.”
Swartz finished with a game-high 31 points, 19 of those came in the second half.
The Indians were also helped by Olivia Clark in the paint.
Clark was camped under the hoop for majority of the game, coming up with rebounds on both sides of the court. Often, she came down with the ball and went right back up with it for bank shots on the offensive end of things.
That style of play was critical at end the first half.
Clark finished with 10 points in the game.
“We got some big baskets there from Olivia Clark and that helped us move that lead out a little bit,” Kodish said. “That’s huge for us because we count on her. We lost Grace Brosius from last year who averaged a double-double and Olivia’s basically doing the same thing now. She stepped in and we have two more years of her after this.”
Upper Dauphin’s Lexi Weaver was the team’s lone double-digit scorer, finishing with 17 points.
The Indians also won the JV game, 33-30.
Juniata travels to Line Mountain Monday.
Juniata 59, Upper Dauphin 44
Kaylee Gessner 2 1-3 5, Madie Miller 1 0-1 2, Eileen Nestor 1 0-0 2, Lexi Weaver 5 4-4 17, Olivia Halterman 3 1-2 7, Bryonna Cather 1 0-0 3, Lea Lenker 4 0-0 8. Totals: 17 6-10 44.
3-point goals: Weaver 3, Cather.
Did not score: Morgan Leader, Ragan Little, Courtney Baker.
Rowe Shepps 1 0-0 2, Janessa Swartz 3 1-2 7, Josie Swartz 14 1-2 31, Chloe Zendt 3 0-0 6, Ellie Shepps 1 1-2 3, Olivia Clark 5 0-0 10. Totals: 27 3-6 59.
Score by quarter
Upper Dauphin 10-13-11-10 — 44
Juniata 9-19-14-17 — 59