Valley’s defense too much for Bulldogs’ offense

By Dan Isenberg

disenberg@altoonamirror.com

ALEXANDRIA — The first steps on the long march back to the state finals were taken by Juniata Valley Thursday night.

The Lady Hornets, the two-time Class 1A runner-up playing up in Class 2A this season, held Claysburg-Kimmel to 2-of-24 from the field in the first half in a 60-25 win in the District 6 Class 2A quarterfinals.

Junior Halee Smith led all scorers with 31 points, including a 15-of-18 mark from the foul line. She also had six rebounds and a steal. Hayden Taylor added 13 for the Lady Hornets.

“The last time we played (Claysburg-Kimmel), they didn’t score as much, and we all knew that they wanted to come back and get revenge,” Smith said. “We knew we had to play even better defense than the game before and we also had to get the boards on offense as well.”

Both teams opened the game with a pair of free throws, but the rest of the frame was all Valley. The Lady Hornets went on a 15-1 run to end the quarter, fighting through a stout Lady Bulldog full-court press.

Lady Hornets coach Rachelle Hopsicker said her girls did a good job of surviving the pressure.

“They had four games last week, I’m sure they’re exhausted. So, we had to a lot of times just weather the storm,” Hopsicker said.

As a result, Claysburg found itself in foul trouble often, particularly in the late third and early fourth quarters as Juniata Valley took a commanding lead. Three Lady Bulldog starters, Megan Hartman, Olivia Locke and Rebekah Claar all fouled out.

In addition, C-K coach Jess Veverka was issued a double-technical foul at 7:31 to go in the contest and was ejected.

“I thought we played hard. There was a lot of inconsistency, maybe not so much from us,” Hopsicker said, “but I think the kids kept their heads. It was very physical and, you could lose your head with some of things going on out there.”

With the first win in its back pocket, Juniata Valley took stock in the performance before it faces Blairsville on Monday night at a neutral site. The Lady Bobcats knocked off Bishop Guilfoyle, 55-49, Thursday night.

“Well the first win gets you three more games, but if you lose this you’re out,” Hopsicker said. “It could happen to anybody. But we need to get this win in, and then everything kind of flows, like ‘hey, we’ve got three more weeks’, hopefully.”

Hopsicker praised the Hornets defense in the first quarter for doing all the little things that forced Claysburg into poor shooting situations.

“We had a hand in their face, all the good shooters. We allowed no front cuts, boxed out really well which made it difficult for them to get any second-chance opportunities,” Hopsicker said.

“The girls were prepared,” she said. They did a good job making them move (the ball) a little bit and getting to that middle.”

Veverka said that the Lady Bulldogs started getting in their own heads after the struggle to score early in the game.

“We were starting to play the game of ‘Oh I’m not making my shots’, and then we started backing down on defense” she said. “We weren’t getting out on the shots as well as we were to start the game. (Juniata Valley) just started chipping away and we weren’t able to dig ourselves back out with answers at the other end.”

Despite the loss, Veverka said her girls held their composure throughout what had been an uphill battle in both prior contests.

“Our girls stood their ground and held their composure and didn’t let themselves get out of control with it,” Veverka said.

“If we would have made our shots, and just had a couple go, we could have gotten into a rhythm and started to build our confidence some more, but it kept dropping on those missed shots,” she said.

CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (25): E. Claar 1 6-10 8, Hartman 0 6-6 6, Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Locke 1 4-4 6, R. Claar 1 0-0 2, Garver 1 0-0 3, Carson 0 0-0 0, Rininger 0 0-1 0. Totals — 4 16-21 25.

JUNIATA VALLEY (60): O. Smith 0 7-10 7, A. Taylor 3 1-2 8, H. Taylor 4 3-5 13, H. Smith 7 15-18 31, Musser 0 0-3 0, Reed 0 1-3 1. Totals — 14 21-41 60.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Claysburg-Kimmel 3 10 6 6 — 25

Juniata Valley 17 20 9 14 — 60

3-point goals: Claysburg-Kimmel 1 (Garver); Juniata Valley 5 (A. Taylor, H. Taylor 2, H. Smith 2).

Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (17-6); Juniata Valley (20-2).

Officials: Dan Soloman, Bill Straesser, Jerry Kauffman

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