STATE COLLEGE — The hole was already deep just 96 seconds into the game, and it never got any better.
Not when it seemed like there was a lid on the basket.
Central Dauphin scored the game’s first eight points in the first 1:36, had the margin into double digits before the end of the first quarter and never let the State College girls’ basketball team slice into that advantage in a 58-42 Rams win Friday night in the annual Pink Zone game.
It ended a rough seven days for the Lady Little Lions (7-4, 5-3), who have lost four of their last five and three straight to drop out of first place in the Mid Penn Conference’s Commonwealth Division.
“We really don’t like feeling that, but we know the competition has been top notch,” coach Bethany Irwin said. “All of these games help us prepare for the postseason. That’s what we have to look at. Would it be great to win the Mid Penn? Yeah, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re still going after the district.”
State College had won the season’s first meeting by 20 points when they met in Harrisburg during the season’s first week.
“This is the way I thought every game in the Mid Penn was going to be,” Irwin said. “(In the beginning of the season) we had a lot of luck. We shot well, Central Dauphin didn’t shoot well, and they took themselves out of that game.”
“The first time around we played lackadaisical,” said Rams coach Karen Hicks, whose team is tied with Cumberland Valley for the division lead, with the teams meeting next week. “I thought we improved on our defense this time, and we were prepared. We knew how important it was to win this game.”
Shatara Parsons’ 14 points and 11 each from Noelle Meck and Jayneisha Davis led Central Dauphin (8-3, 5-1), whose only losses this season aside from the Lady Little Lions were from an out-of-state holiday tournament.
Kyla Irwin’s 22 points led State College, but 14 came in the final seven minutes when the game was all but decided, and Ali Treglia added nine. No one else scored more than five points.
“We need to have more people score,” said Bethany Irwin, whose schedule doesn’t get any easier next week with four games in five days including a battle with rival Altoona. “We need to have the guards hit the shots — take the shots. They’re not even taking shots that they should be taking. They need to shoot. They need to open things up.”
The Rams shot out of the gate fast hitting four of their first five shots for the 8-0 lead.
“I don’t think we were expecting that as much,” said Kyla Irwin, who also had 12 rebounds and five blocks. “In the locker room we were really excited and ready to come out and play — just annihilate. When they came out and scored the first eight points, we’re like, ‘Oh, crap. We’ve got to really step it up.’”
A Bridget King 3-pointer broke the run, but only briefly, as Davis responded with a three at the other end seconds later. King’s bucket turned out to be State College’s only made field goal of the first quarter.
“Having that lead gave them a comfort zone,” Hicks said. “It made them a little more confident at the end.”
The Lady Little Lions began making just four of its first 40 field goal attempts.
“Typically we’ve had maybe one of our players not shoot well,” Irwin said. “We need everybody to score. That’s what was most effective in the beginning of the season.”
State College scored more than half its points in the final seven minutes to make the final score respectable, spurred on by a large crowd of mostly pink-clad fans.
“The energy came out in the gym,” Kyla Irwin said. “I know we needed points and whatever way we needed to, I wanted our team to do it.”
The annual Pink Zone fund-raising event, which included a silent auction and prize raffles, raised $7,125 for The Foundation at Mount Nittany Breast Health Fund — an $1,100 improvement over last season’s event.
“If we couldn’t win the game,” Bethany Irwin said, “I’m glad we could do an amazing thing like that.”
Treglia and Carrie Mahon each had three assists and Maggie Hurley picked up three steals.