EBENSBURG - After giving up a seven-point lead in the first half, Huntingdon coach Amanda Easter could barely watch down the stretch of the fourth quarter as her team was about to give up another.
Leading by 11 points, 42-31, with just less than six minutes to play, the Lady Bearcats withstood a relentless Carrick team to defeat the Lady Raiders in the District 6-8 Class AAA quarterfinals, 47-43, at Central Cambria High School.
After 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions from Chardonnay Littlejohn and Kelsey Brooks trimmed the Huntingdon lead to two, Huntingdon junior Shannon Henney sank one of two from the line to give Huntingdon a three-point lead with 14 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, Littlejohn was called for traveling just before attempting a 3-pointer to tie the game, and Huntingdon (13-9) escaped with the victory.
"I just wanted the clock to hit zero," Easter said. "Give credit to [Carrick] for not giving up and making big shots. We just weren't focused tonight."
Littlejohn finished with a game-high 25 points, and Brooks added nine.
It was Littlejohn who led each Lady Raider surge, as she had all 10 of her team's second-quarter points to stay within two at halftime.
"[Littlejohn] had 16 [points] at half," Easter said. "We knew she was an amazing player. Nothing seems to faze her, and their whole team revolves around her. She's their offense."
Easter wasn't satisfied with her team's first half, as it shot just 2-of-7 from the free-throw line and had numerous turnovers.
"I think we had some jitters," Easter said. "We had 20 turnovers at halftime. A lot of it was definitely mental on our part."
After Carrick tied the game at 25 with 5:58 left in the third, Easter called a timeout and challenged her team to find its focus.
"It was the angriest I've been all year," Easter said. "We were missing the easiest shots in the world, again from a lack of focus."
The Lady Bearcats seemed to find the focus Easter was referring to, in the form of senior guard Tara Smith.
Smith, who had six of her team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, hit a layup with 5:49 remaining in the game that gave Huntingdon its biggest lead at 11 before Carrick's final surge.
"She was such a leader tonight," Easter said. "She had no fear. It was nice to see her have a big game."
Henney added 11 points for Huntingdon, and Bri Rivello chipped in 10.
The Lady Bearcats moved on to the District 6-8 AAA semifinals and will play top-seeded Forest Hills at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Central Cambria High School.
"I'm doing my homework tonight," Easter said. "They're an experienced team, but we'll be ready."
HUNTINGDON (47): Smith 7 4-10 21, Rivello 4 2-5 10, Henney 4 1-2 11, Kirth 1 1-3 3, Felton 0 2-2 2, Hawn 0 0-0 0, Mansberger 0 0-0 0. Totals- 16 10-22 47.
CARRICK (43): Brooke 4 0-0 9, Littlejohn 8 6-7 25, Williams 3 0-0 6, Stewart 1 0-0 3, Snyder 0 0-0 0, Weirzechowski 0 0-0 0. Totals- 16 6-7 43.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntingdon16 9 9 13 - 47
Carrick13 10 8 12 - 43
3-point goals: Huntingdon 5 (Smith 3, Henney 2); Carrick 5 (Littlejohn 3, Brooks 1, Stewart 1).
Team records: Huntingdon (13-9); Carrick (12-14).