High School Sports

Foul trouble sinks State College girls’ basketball in Kiwanis opener

State College’s Elizabeth Czekaj (34) hauls in a rebound during the Lady Little Lions’ 72-62 loss to North Schuylkill in the 26th Annual Kiwani Holiday Classic on Wednesday. Czekaj was one of four State College players in double figures with 12 points.
State College’s Elizabeth Czekaj (34) hauls in a rebound during the Lady Little Lions’ 72-62 loss to North Schuylkill in the 26th Annual Kiwani Holiday Classic on Wednesday. Czekaj was one of four State College players in double figures with 12 points. For the Centre Daily Times

Fouls can either help you or hurt you.

For State College, in its Kiwanis Holiday Tournament opener against North Schuylkill on Wednesday night, it hurt the Lady Little Lions in a 72-62 loss.

After State College rallied from an eight-point deficit in the first half, North Schuylkill pulled away as they took advantage of the Lady Little Lions’ sloppy defense.

“When we clawed back into it (early in the third quarter),” Lady Little Lions coach Chris Leazier said, “I thought then, we just put them on the line pretty consistently from mid-third quarter to the end of the game.”

State College handed North Schuylkill 24 attempts from the free-throw line. The Lady Spartans hit 20 of them and all but two of them occurred in the second half. The Lady Little Lions, by comparison, were just 11 of 17 from the charity stripe.

While every coach heads into each game wanting to avoid foul trouble, Leazier had a pair of key points against North Schuylkill: Remain strong on conversion defense and guard Averi Jordan as a team. Leazier admitted that both points got away from his team as the game slipped away.

“I thought those two things kind of got away from us early in the game,” the second-year head coach said. “We were kind of playing catch up from there.”

The Lady Little Lions defensive deficiencies forced them to scramble in their own end of the court, resulting in the surplus of free throws for the Lady Spartans and allowing Jordan to have a strong performance. The senior small forward posted 32 points in the win, leading all players with eight field goals made. Jordan also went 13-of-14 from the free-throw line.

“I thought when she put the ball on the ground we were a little late to get in our gaps,” Leazier said. “We don’t do a lot of post doubling, but because of that kid’s skill set, we had to guard her with more of our perimeter players.”

The defensive shift allowed Jordan more opportunities from beyond the arc. It was an aspect of her game that Leazier wanted to avoid.

“We wanted to eliminate her 3-point shots, and that’s what we couldn’t do,” he said. “I think if we eliminated her threes, she still would have been the high scorer by far, but it would have been more in the range we would have been comfortable with.”

Only one other North Schuylkill player, Sammy Shinkus, hit double digits in scoring, as she notched 20 points.

The Lady Little Lions featured a more balanced attack, as four players reached double digits. Isabelle Leazier led the way with 16 points — including a game-high four 3-pointers. Kelsey Love (14), Elizabeth Czekaj (12) and Maya Bokunewicz (10) also posted double digits during the contest.

The loss meant State College is forced to play in the consolation game against Northampton, which fell to Bishop Carroll 51-32. While Leazier approaches every game with the same mindset, he admitted this tournament makes the games a bit more special.

“We only get 22 of these (games) guaranteed a year, so every one of them is special,” he said. “It is very cool to be in State College for this tournament, with the great turnout and the fans and so on and so forth. We just try to treat them all as really, really important. We don’t try to play the last game we play, we don’t try to play the one that’s next on the schedule. We just try to play the game in front of us.”

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