HOLLIDAYSBURG - Defense and rebounding win basketball games.
Both played a big hand for the Juniata Valley High School girls team Monday night, as the Lady Hornets staved off an inspired Bishop Carroll squad, 53-40 in an opening-round District 6-A playoff game at the Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School gymnasium.
Led by 6-foot center Abby Zinobile's 16 points and 15 rebounds, and junior guard Haley Myers' 15 points and 11 rebounds, Juniata Valley carved out a 42-28 advantage on the boards.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Juniata Valley's Haley Myers shoots over the Bishop Carroll defense.
Valley had just a 37-35 lead early in the fourth quarter, but parlayed its 2-3 defensive pressure into an 11-2 spurt that put the game away.
The sixth-seeded Lady Hornets improved their season record to 16-7 and will advance to play third-seeded Claysburg-Kimmel Thursday night at a site and time to be announced.
"In the first half, we struggled a little bit, but once we got out of our 1-3-1 defense and into our 2-3, and we started rebounding and hitting our shots, we were fine,'' Valley coach Rachelle Hopsicker said. "I think our pressure [defense] helped us. We got a couple steals off that, and we did a better job of boxing out on the weak-side rebounds later in the game. We treat an offensive rebound like a possession. We want to up our total, and limit our opponents' total.''
After Carroll junior Haley Krug converted senior Devyn Bex's pass into a picturesque reverse layup to pull Carroll to within two points, 37-35 early in the fourth quarter, Valley's Myers hit one of two free throws, and then popped in a field goal, to put the Lady Hornets ahead, 40-35.
Zinobile's two free throws and senior Alexa LeCrone's lay-in were sandwiched around a field goal by Carroll sophomore guard Alli Farabaugh, upping the Valley lead to 44-37. Another Zinobile bucket and sophomore guard Faith Leri's steal and field goal created the Lady Hornets' 48-37 advantage.
"When we got the momentum on the defensive end, we picked up the momentum on offense, too,'' Hopsicker said.
"Our defense won it for us,'' said Zinobile, whose team outscored Carroll, 18-9 in the fourth quarter. "After we went from a 1-3-1 into a 2-3, we executed well. I think our press did it for us - defense leads to offense.''
Valley also got 14 points from junior guard Kerigan Ammerman, including 11 in the second half.
Carroll entered the tournament as the 11th seed, but the Lady Huskies, who finished the season with a 6-17 record, gave Valley all it could handle for 3 quarters.
Farabaugh had nine of her team-high 11 points in the first half for Carroll, which led, 19-18 after one quarter and trailed by just one point, 26-25 at halftime.
"To me, this was the best game I've seen our girls play, quarter-by-quarter, this year,'' said first-year Carroll coach Crystal Horton. "Our girls hustled and competed tonight. I applaud Juniata Valley. They're a good, solid team that played with a lot of enthusiasm and heart.''
Junior forward Brooke Mento's 3-pointer from the left side gave Carroll a 28-26 lead to open the second half, before Myers hit a pair of free throws to tie the game, 28-28. Ammerman then chipped in six points - hitting a bucket after Leri's steal, tossing in two free throws, and converting a driving layup - to help Valley pull ahead, 34-29 en route to a 35-31 lead after three periods.
Both coaches saw a lot of good in Monday's outing.
"Our seniors went out strong, and our underclassmen got playoff experience that we can build on,'' Horton said.
Hopsicker said the tough opening-round game tested her team's mettle, and she was happy about that.
"We hadn't been in the playoffs in awhile, and to get this one under our belts and get the jitters out of the way, I think puts us in a good place,'' she said.
JUNIATA VALLEY (53): Zinobile 6 4-7 16, LeCrone 1 0-0 2, Ammerman 4 5-6 14, Myers 4 6-10 15, Leri 3 0-2 6, Young 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18 15-26 53.
BISHOP CARROLL (40): Krug 3 1-2 7, Lallemand 1 0-0 2, Mento 3 1-1 9, Bex 2 0-0 4, Gueguen 0 0-0 0, Farabaugh 4 0-0 11, Link 2 1-2 5, Chumrik 1 0-1 2, D'andrea 0 0-0 0, Yahner 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 3-6 40.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley18 8 9 18 - 53
Bishop Carroll19 6 6 9 - 40
3-point goals: Bishop Carroll 5 (Farabaugh 3, Mento 2); Juniata Valley 2 (Ammerman, Myers).
Records: Juniata Valley (16-7); Bishop Carroll (6-17).
Officials: Jim Klausman, Jack McDougal, Jerry Kauffman.