HOLLIDAYSBURG - Juniata Valley turned a fourth-quarter negative into a game-ending positive Thursday night.
Kerigan Ammerman and Abbie Zinobile flip-flopped the Lady Hornets' free-throw fortunes late in the game, combining to hit 7 of 9 attempts in the final two minutes for a 31-28 victory over third-seeded Claysburg-Kimmel in the District 6 Class A girls quarterfinals at Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School.
With the win, sixth-seeded Juniata Valley improved to 17-7 and earned a spot in the semifinals opposite Portage on Monday at a site and time to be determined. The top four girls teams in Class A advance to the state playoffs.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Juniata Valley’s Haley Myers shoots between C-K’s Kala Brumbaugh and Abby Kulick.
"We knew that when we walked into the locker room that we had three more games left," Juniata Valley coach Rachelle Hopsicker said, "and [the girls] were ecstatic. No matter what, we have [at least] three more games."
After falling behind, 26-22, with 1:32 left in the game, Ammerman scored on a layup and hit the free throw to cut the lead to one. Zinobile, who missed a pair of foul shots at the 2:12 mark, redeemed herself when she stepped up to the charity stripe with 1:07 to play and sank two shots to give the Lady Hornets a 27-26 lead - their first since a 13-10 advantage late in the second quarter.
Zinobile added another free throw with 41.2 seconds left for a 28-26 Juniata Valley lead. Claysburg's Abby Kulick answered by driving through the middle of the defense for a layup and tied the game at 28-28 with 26 seconds to go.
Zinobile was fouled with 12.6 seconds left and hit and converted both attempts, then Ammerman hit 1-of-2 with just 1.4 seconds on the clock to seal the victory for the Lady Hornets.
"I looked over at coach and our bench," Zinobile said after missing a pair of free throws with 2:12 to play. "They look at me as a leader and look up to me. I wanted to put the shots in. After missing the first two, I knew I had to pull it together."
Zinobile did just that, hitting five of her final six attempts at the free throw line, while Ammerman drained two of her final three attempts at the line. Zinobile, a 6-foot senior, finished with a game-high 14 points and nine rebounds, while Ammerman, a junior point guard, chipped in 11 points.
"We told them that when they step on the free throw line to concentrate on that and that alone," said Hopsicker, whose team was just 2-of-8 from the free throw line before making 7 of its final 9 attempts.
Claysburg's Alyssa Burk drained a 3-pointer to close out the first quarter and tie the score at 7-7. Teammate Madison Ickes converted a steal into a layup for a 10-7 edge. Zinobile, who picked up her second foul and was taken out of the game midway through the second quarter, returned a few minutes later and rattled off five straight points to give the Lady Hornets a spark and a 13-10 lead. Paige Burk nailed a 3-pointer late in the second quarter to knot the score at 13-13 heading into halftime. Both teams were also tied after the third quarter, 20-20, courtesy of a 3-pointer by Juniata Valley sophomore Ellie Keller.
"It was a hard-fought game by two teams that are pretty even," Claysburg coach Jeff Appleman said. "Somebody was going to win by a bucket and unfortunately it was them."
Claysburg seniors Alyssa Burk, Kayla Brumbaugh and Kara Snyder played their final game for the Lady Bulldogs, who finished the season at 16-6.
"It's the end of the season for our three seniors," Appleman said. "They played their hearts out. It's tough to lose a heartbreaker in the last game."
Game Notes: Burk and Kulick led Claysburg with eight points apiece Brumbaugh had a team-high eight rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs, who held the game's largest lead of five points, 20-15, with 2:22 left in the third quarter Claysburg beat Juniata Valley twice during the regular season.
JUNIATA VALLEY (31): Leri 1 0-0 2, Myers 0 0-0 0, LeCrone 0 1-2 1, Zinobile 4 6-9 14, Ammerman 2 7-13 11, Young 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Keller 1 0-1 3. Totals - 8 14-25 31.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (28): Brumbaugh 2 0-0 4, A. Burk 2 2-2 8, Kulick 3 2-2 8, Ickes 2 1-4 5, Snyder 0 0-2 0, Glass 0 0-0 0, Locke 0 0-0 0, Acker 0 0-0 0, P. Burk 1 0-0 3. Totals - 10 5-10 28.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley 7 6 7 11 - 31
Claysburg-Kimmel 7 6 7 8 - 28
3-point goals: Juniata Valley 1 (Keller); Claysburg-Kimmel 3 (A. Burk 2, P. Burk).
Records: Juniata Valley (17-7); Claysburg-Kimmel (16-6).
Officials: Mike Conron, Buddy Johnson, Ron Williams.