Even after a cold start and falling into a rather deep hole, the State College girls’ basketball team still had a chance to make a comeback.
The rally stalled as the fourth quarter began, however, and the Lady Little Lions ended the 2017 portion of their schedule on a two-game losing skid.
Northampton scored the game’s first 10 points and never trailed in a 53-43 victory in the consolation game of the State College Kiwanis Holiday Classic on Thursday morning.
“We dug ourselves a big hole, and it was hard to get out of that,” said the Lady Little Lions’ Maya Bokunewicz, who posted 12 points and eight rebounds. “We just didn’t play as well as we expected, as we wanted to, and it was hard to make up for that.”
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North Schuylkill beat Bishop Carroll 53-43 in the championship game later Thursday.
Jenna Rogers scored 23 of her career-high 27 points in the first half to lead the Konkrete Kids (7-1). Janessa Meixner netted 10 points.
Kelsey Love also had a dozen points to go with six rebounds for the Lady Little Lions (4-4).
“We have to learn from our mistakes,” Bokunewicz said. “We have to grow and keep going. We can’t go back and change any outcomes at this point.”
State College trailed by as many as 19 points late in the second quarter — and was down by 18 after Meixner scored on an inbounds play just over two minutes into the second half.
But State College launched into a 9-2 run, begun by an Addie Orndorff steal and layup and capped by a Love 3-pointer to pull within 41-30. By the end of the third, the margin was down to nine points and the Lady Little Lions had plenty of momentum.
But they missed the first 12 shots of the fourth quarter, and despite putting the defensive clamps on the Konkrete Kids, they never got closer the rest of the game.
“It’s hard knowing that we got there,” Love said, “and then we lost it.”
The Lady Little Lions were more concerned about why they had to rally in the first place — and how Rogers had so many wide-open shots in the opening minutes.
She drilled a pair of 3-pointers, and after missing her next 3-point attempt, hit two more buckets with her feet just inside the arc for a 10-0 lead just 2:33 into the game.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit to get good energy, especially at the start of games,” Love said. “I don’t really know why.”
Rogers, the junior wing, scored her team’s first 15 points, and she accounted for more than half of the Konkrete Kids’ total offense. It is the fourth time this season one player has accounted for better than 40 percent of her team’s points against State College — all losses.
“It’s about more than the matchup; it’s about how the team is configured to guard that player,” State College coach Chris Leazier said. “We have not handled that well. That’s been a consistent theme for us. We need to get our kids to understand what it does mean to guard a player as a team.”
With a return to Mid Penn Conference play after the schedule resumes in January, Leazier has hopes his team will find more energy and toughness on defense.
“That is a bit worrisome as we go into January,” he said. “We know we’re capable of playing good basketball at both ends of the court.”
There were a number of positives to take out of Thursday’s game and the season’s first eight contests. The Lady Little Lions forced 23 turnovers, including a dozen steals.
Offensively, they made just 31 percent of their shots but had good ball movement and plenty of open shots. State College only had eight assists as a team on 18 buckets Thursday, but heading into the tournament had assists on 75 percent of their field goals.
“We’re playing really unselfishly on offense,” Leazier said. “I’ve never been around a team that’s done that (high assist percentage). ... We’ve also gotten scoring balance, which we value very much.”