LEWISTOWN - Headed into Thursday's finale to the regular season, the Mifflin County boys basketball team had faced every District 6 Class AAAA opponent but Altoona. Unfortunately for the Huskies, after a night of difficulties putting the ball through the hoop, what they got from the Mountain Lions was a 50-47 loss in the final seconds of the game.
With two free throws from Jaret Berardinelli to put Altoona up by the final three-point margin and with 16 seconds to go, Altoona iced the win when Jermaine Samuel blocked an attempted 3-pointer by Evan Seby during Mifflin County's next to last possession.
Samuel, who came away with the ball after the block, was promptly fouled by the Huskies and failed to cash in on the double-bonus opportunity. However, enough time had expired that Mifflin County was unable to put up a threat in its final time down the court.
"At that one point near the three-minute mark I thought we started to make our move, and we just kept our composure," said Altoona coach Paul Hasson, whose team outscored Mifflin County 23-16 in the final stanza leading up to the win.
Altoona was led by a nine-point effort from Manny Span in the fourth to complete his game-high 17 points.
From Mifflin County coach Aaron Gingrich's perspective, although it's easy to point to events in the fourth quarter as the difference in the game, troubles early on were just as important to the Huskies.
"Everybody looks at the end of the game backwards as to the difference, but there were many possessions in the first quarter we did the same thing," he said.
In the first quarter, Mifflin County's sluggish offense produced only three points to Altoona's 12. Turnovers and missed shots were at the heart of the Huskies' low score.
"I thought the key tonight was our offensive execution," Gingrich said. "We had a great defensive effort against a solid team, but clearly we did not execute on offense in terms of finishing on the offensive end.
"Some untimely turnovers and some obvious easy buckets that we did not finish were the difference in the game."
For the Mountain Lions, an injury to Span late in the first meant he sat the entire second quarter, but Hasson thought his team did a good job overcoming the blow.
"I was really proud of them. I told them they really overcame a lot of adversity," he said, pointing out the four-point effort by sophomore Jacob Port as Span's substitute.
By the third quarter, Span was back in the game and only managed to score two points, but Mifflin County had hit its offensive stride for 16 points.
The Huskies begin the playoffs Monday against either State College or Hollidaysburg.
"Right now we are playing hard, as we rarely get outworked," Gingrich said.
ALTOONA (50): Kirwin 0 0-0 0, Simmons 5 2-3 15, Berardinelli 1 2-2 4, Samuel 3 0-3 6, Acrie 2 0-0 4, Span 7 3-3 17, Port 1 2-3 4, Corl 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 9-14 50.
MIFFLIN COUNTY (47): Jerzerick 5 1-1 11, Wright 5 2-3 12, Maclay 1 0-0 2, Seby 2 3-3 8, Koller 0 5-6 5, Packer 3 0-0 7, Torquato 1 0-0 2, Michaels 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-13 47.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Altoona12 4 11 23 - 50
Mifflin County3 12 16 16 - 47
3-point goals: Altoona 3 (Simmons 3). Mifflin County 2 (Seby, Packer)
JV: Altoona, 49-20