CURWENSVILLE — Curwensville Area High School girls basketball coach Rusty McCracken was more than just a little concerned at intermission of the Lady Tide’s rematch with a short-handed but inspired Moshannon Valley team Friday night.
Playing without leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer Ally Kronenwetter (illness) and No. 2 rebounder Haley Stodart (district chorus), the Damsels dueled the Lady Tide on even terms by pounding the boards on both ends of Patton Hall and neutralizing high-scoring Ciara Strickland with Emily Kolesar shadowing her in a box-and-one defense.
After four ties and seven lead changes, the hosts headed to the locker room clinging to a 19-18 edge, which had McCracken reflecting on their December 9 Moshannon Valley League season opener when Curwensville eked out a 36-35 road win.
“We told them we don’t want to take this one down to the wire, so let’s go out and do something, and they responded,“ McCracken said. “They came out and played hard and forced things that we weren’t getting in the first half, when we were on our heels and kind of tentative.
“In the second half, we went after the ball and put them on their heels.”
The rest of his halftime talk centered on being more aggressive around the boards, after being outrebounded 21-9 in the first two quarters, and increasing the pressure on defense.
The Lady Tide got the message, matching the Damsels in retrieving missed shots and forcing 10 turnovers in the third period during a 14-3 run that keyed a 45-30 victory that solidified their grip on first place in the league at 3-0.
Six steals led to easy baskets, including three by Strickland and two by Heather Thorp with Kealy Wassil, Abby Dugo and Tierra Shope picking up assists.
Heather Kitko’s long three-pointer with 2:50 left in the period accounted for Mo Valley’s only points.
The fourth quarter turned into the Strickland Show on the offensive end as the junior converted three passes from Shope into fast-break lay-ups, cashed her own steal and swished a three-pointer for a game-high 18 points, just one under her average.
McCracken was pleased with the way the Lady Tide was able to emerge from the first 16 minutes with the lead after Kolesar and the scrappy Damsels had held Strickland scoreless.
“They played a good box-and-one on her,” McCracken conceded. “Fortunately, we work on that so that the other girls can put points on the board and we don’t need to rely on her totally.”
Picking up the slack were Wassil with six points and Thorp and Shauna Guy with four apiece.
“We spread it around, and everybody got some points,” McCracken said. “The team really rallied and did what they had to do when they were on the court.”
Mackenzie Kitko and Kolesar kept Mo Valley(4-7, 2-2 MVL) in the game with eight and six points, respectively.
Kitko, the lone Damsel senior, tossed in three putbacks on her way to a double-double in her first start. She finished with a career-high 10 points and 12 rebounds, half of which came on her teammates’ misfires.
Sam Matchock matched Kitko’s seven boards in the first half to help keep the Damsels close.
“Mo Valley did a good job to stay in the game,” McCracken said. “Who knows what would have happened if their other girls would have been here. It would have been close the whole way. Hopefully, we would have prevailed.”
Ultimately, it was the Lady Tide man-for-man defense that made the biggest difference, especially in the third and fourth quarters when they held the Damsels to 5-for-28 shooting and forced 17 of their 26 turnovers.
“That’s the way we have to play against everybody,” McCracken said. “We double-teamed. We recovered. And we stepped in front of passes. That’s all I can ever ask them to do.
“That third quarter was just a picture of what we’ve been trying to do for some years now.”
The Lady Tide overcame their 34-22 rebounding deficit by making 20 of 58 shots and limiting their giveaways to 13.
The Curwensville junior varsity registered a 25-22 win behind Shauna Guy’s 12 points.
The Lady Tide, now 6-2, are booked for three home games next week, Monday against Harmony in MVL action, Wednesday against Elk County Catholic and Friday hosting Johnsonburg in Allegheny Mountain League cross-over games.
MOSHANNON VALLEY — 30
Hannah Kitko 2 0-0 6, Emily Kolesar 3 1-2 7, Emily Smith 1 2-2 4, Mackenzie Kitko 5 0-0 10, Sam Matchock 1 1-2 3, Reese Harlow 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12 4-5 30.
CURWENSVILLE — 45
Heather Thorp 4 0-0 8, Tierra Shope 2 0-2 4, Ciara Strickland 8 1-3 18, Abby Dugo 1 0-0 2, Kealy Wassil 2 2-2 6, Hannah Dixon 1 1-1 3, Shauna Guy 2 0-0 4, Christine Limbert 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20 4-9 45.
Three-Point Field Goals – Moshannon Valley 2 (H. Kitko 2); Curwensville 1 (Strickland).
Score by Quarters
Moshannon Valley 6 12 3 9 - 30
Curwensville 6 13 14 12 - 45
Officials – Bill Zupich and Rich Gormont.
Lady Tide Scoreboard:
|12/09||@ Mo Valley||36 – 35||1 – 0|
|12/10||@ Brockway||46 – 35||2 – 0|
|12/13||RIDGWAY||57 – 20||3 – 0|
|12/16||@ Harmony||60 – 23||4 – 0|
|12/20||KANE||38 – 49||4 – 1|
|12/27||CLEARFIELD||50 – 46 ot||5 – 1|
|01/03||@ DuBois Central||34 – 55||5 – 2|
|01/06||@ West Branch||ppd.||5 – 2|
|01/07||JOHNSONBURG||ppd.||5 – 2|
|01/10||MO VALLEY||45 – 30||6 – 2|
|01/29||@ West Branch|