Strickland Nets 24 Points, Lady Tide Stays in AML Hunt With 55-36 Win

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CURWENSVILLE — In an important Allegheny Mountain League girls basketball cross-over game that featured two of the top juniors in District 9, Curwensville took charge with 15 consecutive points in the first half and rode that momentum to a 55-36 win over Sheffield in Patton Hall Tuesday evening.

The coaches matched their standouts on each other defensively, and the Lady Tide’s Ciara Strickland got the better of Jen Isenberg in this duel when the Lady Wolverine scoring ace got in early foul trouble and watched from the sideline for a considerable amount of time in the second period.

Isenberg has been red-hot with 95 points in her last four games for a career total of 912.

Strickland joined her in the 900-point plateau with her first basket and fueled Curwensville’s game-changing run with 10 of her 24 points plus an assist, while Isenberg had to wait until the second half to showcase her talents when she imposed her will on the inside to ring up 13 of her 17 points.

“They both battle, and two good players going head-to-head always is fun to watch,” coach Rusty McCracken said after the Lady Tide kept alive its hopes for a possible berth in the AML Championships.

Tiebreaker criteria would determine the South Division’s No. 2 representative in the four-team format if Curwensville can atone for December’s 49-38 home-court loss to Kane Friday to match Brockway’s 6-4 finish. The Lady Wolves gave the Lady Tide a big assist Tuesday night by knocking off the Lady Rovers by that same score.

Playing their fourth game in six days and tipping off early (5 p.m.) because of the heavy snow forecast seemed to have little effect on the Lady Tide, which did take a little while to get rolling.

“We were able to play a lot of people Monday against Glendale, so they weren‘t real tired,” McCracken said. “And we came out pretty good at West Branch last week when we started early. It does take you a little bit out of your routine. Luckily, it didn’t seem to affect us. Maybe we‘ll schedule all of them (with early starts) next year.”

The score was knotted for the third time, 6-6, after five minutes when Tierra Shope converted a Heather Thorp pass to ignite Curwensville’s run, which carried into the second quarter and lasted 5:21.

Kealy Wassil contributed a free throw and then traded assists and baskets in the paint with Strickland as the Lady Tide grabbed a 15-6 edge after one period.

With Isenberg no longer shadowing her, Strickland banked in a one-hander off a drive, hit the first of two foul shots and then was the beneficiary of an Abby Dugo dish for a conventional three-point play to make it 21-6.

Strickland added two more easy buckets off steals for a 10-point quarter and a 27-12 halftime lead for Curwensville.

“She turns defense into offense,“ McCracken said. “She takes that one long stride and gets away from people. And when she gets out in the open, she outruns everybody on the dribble.”

Two baskets by Shope and another by Strickland on a steal had the Lady Tide up 33-14 2:47 into the third period when the 5-8 Isenberg went to work.

A putback, a runner that turned into a three-point play when she was fouled, a strong move down low for two and a pair of charity tosses spurred a Sheffield (5-14) surge that sliced the margin to 39-30 going to the final quarter.

“Isenberg came out as a different player,” McCracken said. “She wasn’t quite as worried about her fouls and went after rebounds harder than in the first half. She went to the basket, and if she didn‘t make it, she found a way to get another try.

“I think our girls came out a little softer and didn’t force our game like we did in the first half. Between quarters, I let them know they lost that third quarter and they started playing like they had earlier and held them to six points.”

All of those came on Isenberg’s short jumper and putback and 6-3 junior Tierra Hansen’s putback in a mini-run that made it a single-digit game again at 45-36 with 3:54 left.

The Lady Wolverines didn’t score again and had six of their 38 turnovers in their last seven possessions.

“I credit our defense that showed up again in the fourth quarter,” McCracken said. “We did what we had to do to secure the win.”

Strickland’s second end-to-end trip after her seventh rebound, her second assist that set up Dugo and her fourth steal for a lay-up sealed Curwensville’s fourth win in a row for a 13-6 record.

The Lady Tide, assured of their first winning season in seven years, shot 38.5 percent with 25 field goals and held the Lady Wolverines to 28.6 percent (14-for-49).

Isenberg just missed a double-double with nine rebounds while Hansen had 10 points and eight rebounds for Sheffield, a team with no seniors.

Even if the AML criteria indicates Brockway rates the tiebreaker edge, McCracken said Friday’s trip north still will be very important for the Lady Tide.

Their incentive would be possibly enhancing their seed for the District 9 Class AA Playoffs.

Allegheny Mountain League South Division - DuBois Central Catholic* 6-2, Brockway 6-4, Curwensville 5-4, Ridgway 0-10.

Allegheny Mountain League North Division - Elk County Catholic* 10-0, Kane 6-2, Sheffield 2-7, Johnsonburg 1-7.

*  – Division champion

SHEFFIELD — 36

Abby Cromwell 2  0-0  5, Jen Isenberg 7  3-3  17, Mariah Fitzgerald 1  2-2  4, Tierra Hansen 4  2-2  10, Rachel Maines 0  0-0  0, Jade Moore 0  0-0  0, Morgan Leichtenberger 0  0-0  0, Jackie Kifer 0  0-0  0, Emily Knowles 0  0-0  0, Erica Isenberg 0  0-0  0, Megan Lyon 0  0-0  0.  TOTALS: 14  7-7  36.

CURWENSVILLE — 55

Heather Thorp 2  0-0  4, Tierra Shope 4  0-1  8, Ciara Strickland 11  2-3  24, Abby Dugo 2  0-0  4, Kealy Wassil 2  1-2  5, Hannah Dixon 3  2-4  8, Sarah Guy 1  0-0  2, Christine Limbert 0  0-2  2, Kayli Sedgwick 0  0-0  0.  TOTALS: 25  5-12  55.

Three-Point Field Goals – Sheffield 1 (Cromwell).

Score by Quarters

Sheffield         6    6  18    6  –  36
Curwensville  15  12  12  16  –  55

Officials – Jerry Carnicella and Chris Sherkel.

Lady Tide Scoreboard:

Date Opponent Score Record
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
01/13 HARMONY 59 – 21 7 – 2
01/15 ELK COUNTY 46 – 51 7 – 3
01/17 JOHNSONBURG 43 – 47 7 – 4
01/20 @ Glendale 57 – 39 8 – 4
01/21 @ Ridgway 52 – 24 9 – 4
01/24 BROCKWAY 37 – 46 9 – 5
01/27 DUBOIS CENTRAL 27 – 34 9 – 6
01/29 @ West Branch ppd. 9 – 6
01/30 @ West Branch 53 – 37 10 – 6
01/31 @ Johnsonburg 51 – 42 11 – 6
02/03 GLENDALE 63 – 28 12 – 6
02/04 SHEFFIELD 55 – 36 13 – 6
02/07 @ Kane    
02/10 @ Clearfield    
02/12 WEST BRANCH    
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