TYRONE - Tied atop the Mountain League standings at 5-0, the winner of Friday's Tyrone-Bald Eagle Area girls basketball game would have a leg up on the league title midway through the season.
Trailing by nine points late in the second quarter, Tyrone scratched and clawed its way back into the game throughout the second half but couldn't clear the final hurdle.
Tyrone pulled to within one possession of Bald Eagle five separate times in the second half but never managed to take the lead in a 54-50 loss at the Tyrone Area Middle School gym.
"We'd battle to within a couple points and had opportunities to take the lead," Tyrone coach Luke Rhoades said. "If we could have taken the lead, it might have been a different story."
Each time Tyrone got close, Bald Eagle would get a couple quick buckets to widen the gap.
The final two Tyrone runs came in the last four minutes of the game. Bald Eagle led by eight points midway through the final quarter, but Tyrone scored six straight points to pull within a basket.
Alex Brooks swished a jump shot, and Nicole Gripp went coast-to-coast with a defensive rebound. The senior guard pulled up for a short, one-handed jump shot to narrowly avoid a charging call.
When Jordyn Swogger converted two free throws with 3:20 left, Tyrone trailed just 45-43, but BEA scored seven of the next eight points for a 52-44 lead with under a minute to play.
Gripp sank 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, pulling Tyrone to within two once again, but Mary Pillot made a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to preserve the win for Bald Eagle.
"If they take the lead maybe our legs buckle," Bald Eagle coach Troy Butterworth said. "They're a tough, well-coached team. I told our girls they'd make some runs. We were able to sustain the lead and keep our composure in a tough place to play."
BEA sits alone the Mountain League standings at 6-0, 9-1 overall. Tyrone falls to 5-1 in league play, 7-4 overall.
Gripp drained five 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 28 points in the loss. Alex Brooks led Tyrone with 11 rebounds and added nine points. Swogger scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five steals.
Pillot and Marissa Ward led Bald Eagle with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Six-foot-3 center Katelyn Miller pulled in 17 rebounds for BEA.
Rhoades traced the loss directly to the team's poor shooting.
"That surprised me. That's been one of our strong points this season," he said. "The effort was excellent. Everybody played extremely hard. The shots just didn't fall."
Tyrone shot 28 percent from the field, 13-of-34 2-pointers and 6-of-32 on 3-point shots for a combined 19-of-66.
"We can't shoot that bad. They were very aggressive and mixed up their defenses very well, but if we shoot 29 percent, we win the game," Rhoades said. "The nice thing is it's the middle of the season, and we have time to work on some things."
BALD EAGLE AREA (54): Simpson 0 5-6 5, Josefik 3 0-0 9, Ward 6 3-5 16, Pillot 7 2-2 17, Miller 2 3-4 7, Hardy 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18 13-17 54.
TYRONE (50): Gripp 11 1-2 28, Swogger 2 3-4 7, Taylor 0 0-0 0, Brooks 5 1-4 11, Hettinger 0 1-2 1, Christine 1 0-0 3, Raftery 0 0-0 0. Totals - 19 6-12 50.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bald Eagle Area13 10 15 16 - 54
Tyrone8 11 11 20 - 50
3-point goals: Bald Eagle Area 5 (Josefik 3, Ward, Pillot); Tyrone 6 (Gripp 5, Christine).
Records: Bald Eagle Area (6-0 Mountain League, 9-1 overall); Tyrone (5-1 Mountain League, 7-4 overall).
Officials: Jim Buchanan, Doug Moore, Skip Dry.
JV: 27-23, Bald Eagle Area. High scorers-Peters, Fischer 7 (BEA); Christine 6 (T).