Penns Valley fired up for girls’ basketball opener against Bald Eagle Area

As starts to a season go, it’s hard to do much better.

For five minutes, the Penns Valley girls’ basketball team was on fire.

After that, there were plenty of reminders it was the first game of the season.

The Lady Rams scored 19 of the game’s first 21 points and cruised to a 52-26 victory over Bald Eagle Area on Friday night.

“We came out strong,” Penns Valley coach Karen McCaffrey said. “But Bald Eagle’s strong. They’ve really improved from last year.”

McCaffrey’s team made 8 of its first 13 shots from the field, and when Hannah Montminy buried a 3-pointer a mere 4:35 into the game, the Lady Rams led 17-2 and it looked like it would be a dominating night.

“We ran like we want to run,” McCaffrey said. “We want to run our break. We didn’t finish strong on a couple plays, but overall I think we played well in spurts.”

Isabella Culver’s speed led to three layups during the opening burst, including one coast-to-coast trip, Maci Ilgen also converted on two layups and Emma Butler sank a pair of mid-range jumpers.

BEA, meanwhile, was caught watching the track meet.

“I think nerves — they just couldn’t get themselves calm,” Lady Eagle coach Jim Josefik said. “We tried to talk to them, but they were just so excited and out of sync.”

The Lady Rams could not keep up that pace, however. After that 8 for 13 start from the field, they made just 13 of their final 55 shots.

“Unfortunately, sometimes when you get up, you then take every first shot you get instead of just getting into the swing of the offense,” McCaffrey said. “We kind of looked like five individuals out there instead of a team.”

McCaffrey’s team also struggled from the foul line, converting just 9 of 23 attempts and missing the front of four one-and-bonus opportunities.

“We’re definitely working on foul shooting (Saturday) in practice,” McCaffrey said. “That’s an area I‘m surprised at, our shooting percentage tonight. Practice time we’re doing great.”

BEA slowly started to crawl back, slicing the margin to 27-14 by halftime and as close as 32-20 midway through the third quarter.

“We started shaky but we won the second quarter,” Josefik said. “We went in (to the locker room) and they got a little bit — like a moral victory at halftime, like they said, ‘Hey, we’re there.’”

Once the deficit was cut to 12, Penns Valley cranked up the defense and BEA withered. The Lady Eagles had 32 turnovers in the game, and 27 were from steals.

“They turned up the heat and we kind of didn’t like the heat,” Josefik said.

“We always have to create some offense with our defense,” McCaffrey said. “Especially when shots aren’t falling for us. I think we have to even do a little bit better. I thought we were standing straight too much tonight and doing some reaching. We’re not going to get away with that Tuesday.”

Culver finished with 16 points to go with six rebounds. Ilgen added 11 points, eight rebounds and six steals and Butler netted eight points. Jordan Andrus grabbed six rebounds and Peyton Homan picked up six steals.

Julia Cingle did her best to lift BEA with 16 points to go with three steals. Morgan Chambers posted five rebounds and three blocks and Michaela Maynard pulled down six rebounds.

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT