Juniata Valley struggled to get going for more than 2 quarters of its opening-round District 6 Class A playoff game, and by the time the Lady Hornets did, it was too late.
Homer-Center, the ninth seed, outscored Juniata Valley 17-0 over a 7-minute span from late in the second quarter through a good portion of the third and held on for a 57-47 win Monday at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
After sitting on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, Homer-Center center Sydney Horel turned in a big third quarter, scoring 13 of the Wildcats' 15 points.
Horel's scored 11 straight points during one stretch, giving Homer an 18-point lead from which Juniata Valley never recovered.
"We weren't getting in front of her and not rotating in time," Valley coach Rachelle Hopsicker said. "They were able to get some lob passes to her for some easy baskets. In the fourth quarter, we were able to get there and steal the ball instead."
Juniata Valley, the eighth seed, made 11 steals, most of which came during a fourth-quarter comeback attempt that fell a little short.
"They were double-teaming us at halfcourt, and we didn't do a good job getting the ball around to the open man," Homer coach Tom Lasher said. "Against playoffs teams, you have to be able to handle the ball. That'll be a point of focus this week in practice."
Led by Breanna Leidy's six steals, the Lady Hornets pressured Homer into one mistake after another, pulling to within six points late in the game.
Taylor Young sank her third 3-pointer of the game, and Haley Myers converted a steal into a layup that made it a 53-47 game with 2 minutes remaining. That was the end of the Hornets' run, however.
"If we would have had more time, we would have been OK. We just couldn't get going early enough," Hopsicker said. "This is a great group of kids. They really wanted each other to succeed. It's been a pleasure coaching them."
Horel finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds. Homer had nearly twice as many rebounds at Valley, 32-19.
Myers, who committed to play basketball at Juniata College Friday, led the Lady Hornets with 14 points, Young scored 13, and Leidy added 12. Faith Leri dished out six assists.
"These seniors were freshmen when their coach [Jama Greene] passed away. They were lower than low. To see them have fun and love playing basketball again has been a wonderful experience," Hopsicker said.
Juniata Valley finished the season 11-11. Homer-Center (11-12) advanced to take on top-seeded Portage.
"Portage is a good team. They're well-deserving of the number one seed. It'll be a tall task for us," Lasher said.
HOMER-CENTER (57): Albright 3 4-6 11, Horel 9 3-3 21, Pohley 1 1-2 3, Leysock 2 0-2 5, Buggey 6 1-2 15, Yancy 0 0-0 0, Berezansky 0 0-0 0. Totals - 22 9-15 57.
JUNIATA VALLEY (47): Leri 2 0-0 4, Myers 4 6-8 14, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Leidy 3 5-10 12, Young 5 0-0 13, Payne 1 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 11-18 47.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Homer-Center14 16 15 12 - 57
Juniata Valley9 16 8 14 - 47
3-point goals: Homer-Center 4 (Buggey 2, Albright, Leysock); Juniata Valley 4 (Young 3, Leidy).
Records: Homer-Center (11-12); Juniata Valley (11-11).