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Instant classic: Juniata girls take late win over rival EJ

By Kenny Varner

MIFFLINTOWN – Round two.

After falling on the road to cross county rival East Juniata in the first game they me, the Juniata girls basketball team was looking to split the season series Saturday in front of their own home court.

It was a back and forth contest early on but as the game went into the second period, the Tigers held a 28-18 lead.

However, the Indians came out firing in the second half on the sizzling shooting of Mya Rush who posted 26.

After tying the game going into the final stanza, Juniata rallied back to take the victory.

It was an instant classic as both teams battled to the very end with the game not being decided until the last seconds of the contest.

Rush posted 26 and had three rebounds but most importantly tallied the last points of the ball game to clinch the win for Juniata.

Despite being in foul trouble early on Malin Kint dominated the boards and was a strong presence inside, pulling down 12 boards while scoring seven.

The Tigers were led by Carly Beaver and Alyssa Hibbs who both posted 12-point games. 

“In the first half we came out spotty but in the second half we came out and played much better. In one of those quarters we scored 18,” Juniata coach Kevin Kodish said. “We were able to erase that 10-point deficit and go into the fourth quarter tied up. The fourth quarter was winner take all. We made enough plays. You can’t say enough about Mya Rush but the biggest clutch shot of the night came Chloe Zendt. We were tied at 45 with a minute left and she nailed the three.”

Going into the final stanza, the two teams would find themselves in a classic shoot out to see who would come out victorious. 

East Juniata struck first as Alyssa Hibbs went right to the heart of the Juniata defense for the bucket.

The Indians tied things on a clutch shot by Laney Dowling, tying the game back up at 38.

On the following Tigers possession, Hibbs repeated what worked just seconds ago and again went down the middle of the Juniata defense.

Trailing by two, Rush gave the home fans something to cheer about as she hit nothing but net on a triple with 4:54 left, giving them a 41-40 advantage.

Carly Beaver got into the action as she penetrated the defense and was fouled in the act of shooting. She went a perfect 2-for-2, giving the Tigers a lead at 42-41.

But the Indians started to feed the ball to the hot hand of Rush and again she responded, hitting a second triple, upping the Juniata lead to 44-42.

After forcing a turnover on the Tigers next possession, Juniata got the ball and pushed it down into the awaiting hands of Zendt. Zendt was hacked in the process of shooting, hitting one-of-Two from the charity stripe to give “Big Red” a 45-42 advantage.

But the Tigers weren’t going down without a fight and tied things with consecutive possessions.

Beaver brought her team within one on a field goal.

On the following possession, the Tigers got the ball back and Thea Neimond hit one-of-Two from the foul line, tying it at 45 with 1:22 left.

On the Indians next possession, Zendt was clutch under pressure sending a triple from beyond the arc, giving the Indians again a 3-point advantage.

The buck caused a East Juniata time out so they could set up for their next possession.

However, Juniata got the ball back with a chance to run out the clock.

After stealing the ball away from Juniata, the Tigers had 12.9 for one last chance.

However, a three-point shot by the Tigers missed and Zendt pulled down the rebound and got the ball to Rush as she layed it in to secure the 50-45 hard earned victory.

“We refused to defend the 3-point shot. We live by the three we die by the three. We missed shots tonight and they made shots tonight.  I mean that’s what it comes down to,” East Juniata coach Travis Quici 

said. “We live off that 3-point line and the shooters weren’t making their shots so that’s what it comes down to.  At the end of the night, hats off to Kevin and those girls as they came out and out played us.”

However, early on in the contest, the Tigers came out strong as they took the first quarter by a 12-8 margin. 

With Kint getting two early fouls and went to the bench, East Juniata was able to penetrate the middle on buckets by Hibbs, Neimond and Beaver. 

With the middle opening up, that allowed the Tigers to get their outside game going as well and Alyssa Robinson hit two first quarter bombs en route to the 4-point first quarter lead.

The Tigers continued to roll in the second quarter as it extended its lead to 10 at the intermission.

Again, East Juniata went right to the heart of the bucket for 13 of the teams 16. The other three came from Robinson, giving the “Maroon and Black Attack” a 28-18 lead at the half.

That would set up the drama that would ensue in the second half.

In the end, the two teams split the season series as they prepare for post season play.

Just another exciting  nail biting contest between these two rivals. Which is nothing new to these two fan bases.

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