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Season Ends in District Opener
Feb. 23, 2017Mifflin County falls despite late rally 23 Feb 2017 — The Sentinel
LEWISTOWN -Rattled early, Mifflin County put on a comeback effort in the second half, but came up just short both on the scoreboard, and on Rylie Rittenhouse's attempt for a game winning 3-pointer in the game's final second.
State College defeated the Huskies, 50-48, concluding the Huskies' season in Wednesday's District 6 Class 6A girls basketball semifinal.
Mifflin County finished the year 13-10.
Down five in the contest's final minute, Mifflin County did everything it could to shrink the deficit and give Rittenhouse the opportunity to seal the game with a win.
After a pair of missed free throws by the Little Lions' Lexi Risha, Rittenhouse made a layup to close the game to within three with 22.6 seconds remaining.
Then the Huskies were faced with having to go the rest of the way without Eleana Eckley, who fouled Maya Bokunewicz on the ensuing pass inbounds to foul out of the contest.
"She did what she had to do. She was in a position where she had to stop the clock, and it ended up being her fifth, and that was big, that was real big," Mifflin County coach Roger Herto said. "In retrospect, if I had that to do over again, I probably would have subbed. I probably would have pulled her out of there, and had somebody else come in and commit that foul."
Bokunewicz would be fouled twice in the minute stretch, making both in her first trip to the free throw line. Then Allison Prendergast answered with a critical 3-point goal to shorten the deficit to two.
Bokunewicz then missed her first of two on the next trip, setting the Huskies up for the potential game-winning drive.
"The last play was exactly as diagrammed," Herto said. "(We) ran Rylie off a double, had two nice screens, Rylie had a real good look at it, and I would let Rylie have that shot every time."
Mifflin County has not played in a postseason game since 2014 when the team was in Class 4A - dating back to pre-6A play. As a program, it has played in four playoff games, losing all of them. The last playoff win the county has seen was in 2011 when Kevin Kodish - now with Juniata - was at the helm of Lewistown in Class 3A.
The Mifflin County district title drought dates back to 2009, when Indian Valley won it all.
For Herto, he thinks the lack of playoff experience had a role in the loss, especially early on.
"They had our kids rattled, no question about that," Herto said. "This is the first time for our kids to be in a playoff atmosphere, and we got really rattled early. We really were not ourselves. You have to give them credit for a lot of that too."
Herto credits the Lions getting the Huskies out of their element as the biggest difference.
The Lions went with a triangle and two defense for the majority of the game, allowing the Huskies - who were rushing things early - to shoot from a distance.
Unfortunately, for Mifflin County, that also played a big role in the team's loss.
"They were basically letting the three other kids take shots," Herto said. "Unfortunately, we missed and we missed and we missed wide open shots. Mentally what happens for a kid is that hoop starts getting smaller and smaller."
The Huskies offense got contributions from a number of players. Three girls - Eckley, Hannah Aumiller and Ericka Lepley - scored double-digit points. Rittenhouse nearly joined the three, finishing with eight.
And though five different players made 3-point goals, the team shot just 5-of-21 from behind the arc. Herto said his team took a few too many shots from behind the arc, especially early.
The Huskies also had moments in the game where communication was off, leading to a handful of turnovers in the passing game.
Mifflin County matched State College's second half points in the fourth quarter alone (21), and the Huskies' outscored the Lions, 29-21, in the final 16 minutes.
The Lions, though, never relinquished the lead after some strong play in the second quarter.
Relying on close range shooting from Bokunewicz and Taylor Love, State College went on a 9-0 run to help give the Lions a 10-point lead at halftime.
Love accounted for 50 percent of the team's scoring, finishing with 25 points.
Her performance was unexpected for Herto after keeping her to just four points in the team's last meeting at State College.
"We knew what she was going to do. We watched a lot of film, and unfortunately didn't play well defending her," Herto said. "She did a nice job. That was mystery to me. I did not expect that, but my hat's off to her."
Combined with Bokunewicz' 15, the two scored 80 percent of the Lion's points.
The short playoff stint was something Herto didn't envision before tipoff.
"I really thought this was a team that was going to go out with a bang, but especially for those three kids (seniors Lepley, Cassidy Sunderland and Bryn Ferguson) that have done so much for our program, but unfortunately, it ends tonight," Herto said. "That's the postseason. I had to make speech I was not prepared to make tonight to our kids, but that's basketball."
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