The State College girls’ basketball team went into its matchup with Central Dauphin with something to prove.
The Lady Little Lions struggled to beat the top teams in the Mid Penn Conference this season, as they often broke down in one quarter in losses to teams like Mifflin County, Harrisburg, Central Dauphin East and Central Dauphin. But State College finally broke through with a 51-45 win over Central Dauphin on Friday night, showing its potential to take down top teams with the postseason looming.
“We’re really proud of the girls,” State College coach Chris Leazier said. “We feel like that’s been kind of a two-year climb, honestly, to do that.”
The second-year coach has seen the Lady Little Lions mature offensively and defensively this season, and it’s resulted in four wins in their last five games. The Lady Little Lions led for much of Friday night’s game, but they needed to make plays down the stretch to come out on top. State College received contributions from a handful of players in the final minutes to seal the win.
And the Lady Little Lions put the game away by executing in their free-flowing offense under Leazier. They needed to adjust to the new style of play when Leazier took over, but they’ve become more comfortable making plays now.
“I felt like this game really put it all together,” State College’s Olivia De La Nuez said.
Maya Bokunewicz and Lexi Risha both finished with 11 points to pace State College. And both guards looked to get to the rim throughout the game.
With State College trailing 41-39 with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Bokunewicz drove to the basket and drew a foul. She knocked down both free throws to tie the game, setting up what proved to be the game-winning shot on the next Lady Little Lions’ possession when De La Nuez banked in a runner to push State College ahead 43-41.
After another layup by the Lady Little Lions pushed the lead to four points, State College needed to hit its free throws to seal the win. Risha finished 5 for 6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 9 for 11 from the line for the game.
State College improved its record to 11-9 on the season and 8-6 in the Mid Penn with the win. Leazier was thrilled to see his team come out on top against a tough opponent and took pride in his players’ effort to overcome the late deficit. The Lady Little Lions put together a strong effort through four quarters and thrived by attacking off the dribble.
And with his team playing with confidence, Leazier believes the Lady Little Lions can compete for the District 6 championship and a state playoff berth.
“We think we can do something special by the end of the year,” Leazier said.
State College worked for nearly two full seasons to earn this type of win, and the Lady Little Lions were all smiles after the game.
“We’re on a high right now,” Risha said.