Valiant effort not enough for Mustangs
Midd-West falls just short in D4 playoffs
LEWISBURG–Just one year removed from an 0-22 season, the Midd-West Mustangs found themselves just minutes away from pulling off an opening-round upset against the No. 1 seed Lewisburg Green Dragons in the opening round of the District 4 Class 4A tournament.
However it was Lewisburg that stormed back, hit some late free throws and came away victorious in a 40-34 girls basketball contest in Lewisburg on Thursday night.
“We had to take advantage of the opportunity,” Midd-West coach Erica Wagner said about getting the chance to play in the District tournament. “We planned these past three days, we prepared for Lewisburg… a couple bounces of the ball one way or another and the game could have easily gone our way.”
The game was a roller coaster for the Mustangs (7-11), who played tough from the opening tip. They played to a tie to end the first quarter before trailing by 10 points at the half. The Mustangs began to chip away at the Green Dragons’ lead in the third quarter before taking the lead in the fourth, thanks in part to an 8-0 run.
“(The plan) was to stick to our game plan–play tough defense and work on the help defense,” Wagner explained. “Offensively, (it was) to move the ball, be patient and not turn the ball over.”
When the Mustangs were going right, they were running sharp plays and burying jump shots. When the Mustangs faltered, they were trying to force the ball down low, leading to multiple turnovers.
The Mustangs scored just three points in the second quarter and turnovers were a major reason why.
“Forcing it inside was going against our game plan and we’ve been talking about that all week as well,” Wagner said. “Take care of the basketball, make good cuts, hit the open cutters, see the entire floor, those types of things.”
When the Mustangs came out of the half, they ran a new offense, which consisted of using their athleticism to get open looks at the basket. Rylee Shawver and Bella Fave each connected on threes to help Midd-West close the gap.
Heading into the final quarter, the Mustangs trailed 28-21. They started with an 8-0 run, as Chloe Sauer hit two layups to help Midd-West take a 29-28 lead — its first since the opening quarter.
The Mustangs clung to a 31-29 lead with 3:30 left on the clock, as Fave put in a layup. Lewisburg’s Regan Llanso answered by getting an offensive rebound and putting it back in to give the Green Dragons a one-point lead. The Mustangs retook the lead as Shawver buried a 3-pointer of her own.
From there, all of the momentum swung in favor of the Green Dragons. Lewisburg never panicked and showed great resolve for a team on the verge of being eliminated by the No. 8 seed in the tournament.
A few clutch baskets and a trio of late free throws secured the win for Lewisburg.
Even still, Wagner and the Mustangs were able to appreciate the effort it took for their team to get into Districts, given the results of last year. Of course, they wanted to win, but going down in a close battle with the best team in the district says a lot about how far this team has come in a short time.
“(After last season) if someone said we would be playing in the opening round of districts next year, I think people would’ve said, ‘yeah, right,'” Wagner said. “I told the girls that when we got that first win… they didn’t settle, and we talked about not settling and go after what you deserve.”
The Mustangs will take this eye-opening turnaround into next season, with the hopes of making Midd-West known as a hard-working basketball program. Sauer, the lone returning starter for next year, had a huge game, scoring nine points while grabbing seven rebounds.
Unfortunately, Midd-West will be losing six seniors, four of which were starters: Shawver, Fave, Makenna Dietz and Alexis Walter.
Shawver finished Thursday’s game with a team-high 12 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal. Fave scored nine points with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Dietz had two points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block. Walter also had two points to go with three boards, two assists, a block and a steal.
Wagner acknowledged all the work that the seniors have done in the two years she has been their coach and how they all will be sorely missed. But this graduating class helped pave the way for the successful seasons to come.
“Losing those six seniors, four starters–it’s gonna hurt. They have left an impact on this program. They really set the foundation,” Wagner said. “They did everything we asked of them and in the grand scheme of things, they’re a great group. I’m super proud of them. Tonight, they did not give up, and in my honest opinion, they left it all out on the court.”
Lewisburg 40, Midd-West 34
Rylee Shawver 5 0-0 12, Chloe Sauer 4 1-4 9, Bella Fave 4 0-0 9, Makenna Dietz 1 0-0 2, Alexis Walter 1 0-0 2, Leah Ferster 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Snyder 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 1-4 34.
3-point goals: Shawver 2, Fave.
Rebounds: Sauer 7, Diets 5, Fave 3, Walter 3, Ferster 3, Shawver.
Assists: Fave 3, Dietz 2, Walter 2, Shawver, Sauer.
Blocks: Dietz, Walter.
Steals: Dietz 4, Sauer 2, Fave 2, Shawver, Walter, Ferster.
Roz Noone 5 3-5 15, Sophie Kilbride 2 3-6 7, Hope Drumm 3 1-2 7, Regan Llanso 2 0-0 4, Maddie Still 1 2-4 4, Lauren Gross 1 1-5 3, Maddie Materne 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 10-22 40.
3-point goals: Noone 2.
Rebounds: Kilbride 7, Still 4, Noone 3, Llanso 3, Gross 3, Drumm.
Assists: Kilbride 7, Still 2, Noone, Drumm.
Blocks: Noone 2.
Steals: Kilbride 7, Noone, Llanso, Drumm.
SCORE BY QUARTER
L: 8-14-6-12 40