It’s not often a team can make just two field goals in the entire second half and still be talking about a win.
It happens even less often in the playoffs.
But the Penns Valley girls’ basketball team had two important factors on its side Monday night in its District 6 Class AA opening-round game: Good defense and good free-throw shooting.
The Lady Rams used those advantages to knock out Penn Cambria 42-37 at Tyrone Middle School.
“I can’t believe it and I’m so happy that we won,” said guard Karli Ripka, who scored 11 points. “There’s no words to describe how happy I am to win.”
The eighth-seeded Lady Rams (14-7) advance to the quarterfinals to meet top-seeded Blairsville (21-1). The game likely will be played Thursday or Friday at a site to be determined.
Bethany Miller also scored 11 points to go with five rebounds and four steals, Kourtney Beamesderfer added seven points and three steals, Tangie Lyons pulled down 10 rebounds and Mackenzie Ironside had four steals and four assists.
Tori Shingler and Megan Wheeler each netted 10 points and Anna Audley added nine for the Lady Panthers (15-7).
Penns Valley seriously struggled with its second-half shooting, making just 2 of 21 attempts from the floor.
That helped Penn Cambria rally from a nine-point halftime deficit to a two-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter.
“I knew that my team could pull it out,” said Ripka, who also had four rebounds and three steals. “We had the talent, we had the ball-handlers, we had the shooters. We had everything to win this game.”
The Lady Rams certainly had people who could make their shots from the line. They were 16 for 20 in the game, and made 13 of 16 in the final five minutes.
“Every time we were driving they were fouling us,” said Miller, who made seven of her eight attempts from the line. “We knew that, if we tried to get to the hoop they were going to foul us and that the foul line was our hope for the game.”
Miller saved her best work for the final 31 seconds, when she was 4 for 4 from the stripe.
“A little butterflies,” Miller said. “But I sink them all the time, so ... it was just another thing. We practice them all the time.”
“We made some clutch free throws at the end,” coach Andrea Borland said. “We did a nice job weathering that storm.”
After the Panthers had rallied for a 29-27 lead to close the third quarter, Penns Valley used an 8-0 run to start the fourth built by a Beamesderfer jumper and, of course, free throws.
With the margin at 37-31 with 1:37 left, Penn Cambria rallied with foul shots of their own by Audley and Kaley Strittmatter, the latter with 55.6 seconds left. However, the Panthers would not score again until just before the final horn.
“We weren’t worried,” Miller said of seeing the lead nearly disappear. “Every team has a point where they’re like, ‘OK, we need this back.’ Coach called timeout and she was like, ‘We need this back right now.’ Everybody on the team stepped up.”
They thought the Panthers were ready to tie it with a steal and breakaway seconds later, the bucket was missed, and Maci Ilgen was fouled grabbing the rebound. She made 1 of 2 from the line at the other end of the floor.
“Our girls go hard on defense,” Borland said. “I have the faith in them. They were able to get back. They did the job.”
Another key reason the Lady Rams held on was their defense, forcing 25 Penn Cambria turnovers, including 15 steals.
“We knew coming in we were going to pressure them from the beginning,” Borland said. “And we pressured them to the end and I think that’s what gave us the advantage.”
It helped Borland’s team could take advantage of the Panthers missing point guard Kaitlyn Krug, who suffered an injury last week. She made a brief appearance for about two minutes in the third quarter, but was obviously hobbled and could not help her team much.
Penns Valley also did quite well on the glass despite being at a decided size advantage — Penn Cambria had two starters who are 6-foot tall, and another at 5-10.
“In practice we really, really worked on the post,” Borland said. “How we were going to defend, and how we were going to play our posts. They really executed our plan pretty well.”
“Coach said we needed to box them out,” Ripka said. “Push them back and just grab all the rebounds we can get — jump high.”