LOYSBURG - For Northern Bedford Area High School girls basketball coach Todd Eckenroad, defense is a big part of his team's game plan.
"I heard somewhere that if you hold the other team to 40 points or less in a game, you have a good chance to win,'' Eckenroad said Friday night. "We've actually been trying to hold each opponent to 36 points or less each game.''
The strategy has paid off nicely for Northern Bedford, which has won 13 of its first 16 games this year. It did again Friday night at the Northern Bedford High School gymnasium, as the Lady Panthers stayed on cue defensively in a 43-31 Inter-County Conference, non-section victory over Claysburg-Kimmel.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Northern Bedford’s Briana Beach shoots over Claysburg-Kimmel’s Alexis Locke.
Ahead by just two points, 23-21 at intermission, Northern Bedford tightened up its defense and limited Claysburg (11-6) to just 10 points in the second half.
"We know they have excellent outside shooters, so we ended up closing the gap on them a little sooner,'' Eckenroad said. "Our kids really stepped up on defense.''
Northern Bedford gained some separation in the third quarter, stretching a two-point lead to eight (34-26) by carrying the period, 11-5. Briana Beach, a 6-2 junior post, grabbed one of her 12 rebounds and scored a putback to give Northern a 25-21 lead three mintues into the quarter. Senior guard Ashley McGhee, who scored a game-high 16 points for Northern, followed with a 3-pointer from the left side, then added two free throws later in the period to put the Lady Panthers ahead, 30-24.
After senior Ronette Claar - who led Claysburg with 14 points - scored a deuce, Northern rattled off the final two buckets of the quarter, as Leah Hershberger polished off a drive with a layup and Katelyn Potter chipped in a buzzer-beating rebound.
"Ashley stepped up and played a real nice game for us,'' Eckenroad said of McGhee. "Briana Beach had a solid rebounding night with 12 rebounds, and Katelyn Potter gave us some good minutes. The third quarter was a big key.''
McGhee felt that Northern's defensive play and the Lady Panthers' ability to handle Claysburg's defensive pressure were pivotal parts of the game.
"Our defense picked it up tonight more than we have in the past few games,'' said the 5-foot-7 senior guard. "We also handled their pressure and didn't throw the ball away tonight as much as we had been before.''
Claysburg coach Jill Brumbaugh said her team was playing its second tough opponent in as many nights. The Lady Bulldogs lost to Bellwood-Antis, 41-37 Thursday.
"We just ran out of gas,'' Brumbaugh said. "Bellwood and Northern Bedford are the two best teams we play this season, and we played them on back-to-back nights. They're both so fast-paced.''
Hershberger scored 12 points for Northern, while Claar hit four 3-pointers among her 14 points for Claysburg.
"Ronette Claar hit some 3's for us, and [senior] Lydia Fleck had an outstanding game both offensively and defensively,'' Brumbaugh said.
Claysburg outrebounded Northern, 35-29, but converted just nine of 42 floor shots and never led after the first quarter.
"Northern Bedford is a really good team, and they're very well-coached,'' Brumbaugh said.
Game notes: Claysburg sophomore Madison Ickes left the game with a head/neck injury in the first quarter and did not return. "[Her absence] messed up our team's rotation,'' Brumbaugh pointed out ... Both Claysburg and Northern Bedford are idle until Monday, when the Lady Panthers host Central and Claysburg travels to Southern Huntingdon.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (31): Brumbaugh 0 0-2 0, Fleck 1 2-2 5, Kulick 2 5-7 9, Ickes 0 0-0 0, Claar 5 0-0 14, Burk 0 0-0 0, Snyder 1 1-2 3, Locke 0 0-0 0. Totals - 9 8-13 31.
NORTHERN BEDFORD (43): McGhee 3 7-11 16, Cottle 1 3-6 5, Hershberger 3 4-6 12, Smith 1 0-1 2, Beach 3 0-3 6, Potter 1 0-0 2, Cronrath 0 0-0 0. Totals - 12 14-27 43.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Claysburg-Kimmel8 13 5 5 - 31
Northern Bedford8 15 11 9 - 43
3-point goals: Claysburg-Kimmel 5 (Claar 4, Fleck); Northern Bedford 5 (McGhee 3, Hershberger 2).
Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (11-6 overall); Northern Bedford (13-3 overall).
Officials: Sarah Fye, Don Donaldson, Rod Brumbaugh.
JV: Claysburg-Kimmel, 31-29. High scorers-Glass, CK, 10; Gochnour, NB, 16.