Sometimes all it takes is one good run, no matter when it happens.
The State College girls’ basketball team went from a deficit to a comfortable lead in the first half and held on the rest of the way Monday night in the opening game of the Kiwanis Holiday Classic.
Behind 20 points and seven rebounds for Jalyn Shelton-Burleigh, and 18 points and nine boards for Kyla Irwin, the Lady Little Lions held off North Schuylkill 58-49.
“Just trying to find the right things that worked,” Irwin said. “Trying to keep that consistency. I thought we pushed each other to some things that we haven’t always done.”
Maggie Hurley added eight points for the Lady Little Lions (6-3), who have won four straight and will meet Burrell, an overtime winner over Northampton, in the finals at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The Lady Spartans got 16 points apiece from Tiffany Lapotsky and Carly Gregas, with Waverly Snyder adding nine points.
After the game opened with a 3-point shooting exhibition for both teams, North Schuylkill held a 14-9 lead with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
That was when the Lady Little Lions launched their game-changing run, scoring the next 13 points.
Brenna Adams started the burst with a 3-pointer from the corner, Irwin hit a mid-range jumper and Hurley added two free throws and a 3-pointer in the final minute of the first quarter to take the lead. The trey just beat the horn to end the quarter. Irwin then drained a 3-pointer seconds into the second quarter to complete the run, with the team up 22-14.
“I’m glad for those quick couple points in that quarter,” Kyla Irwin said. “That cushion definitely helped.”
From there the lead would grow as large as 15 and shrink to as little as four, but it would always belong to State College.
Irwin and Shelton-Burleigh helped keep the lead fairly comfortable. Shelton-Burleigh had a pair of 3-pointers among her points and was 8 of 11 from the floor for the game.
“Jay shot very well, very consistent,” coach Bethany Irwin said. “She missed five weeks in preseason, and her legs are still not there. She’s getting there.”
The Lady Little Lions won despite not scoring a field goal over nearly the final 10 minutes of the game. But an 11 for 14 showing from the line in the fourth quarter, including 6 for 6 in the final 90 seconds, helped wrap up the game.
“I’ve seen us lose it in the second half,” Bethany Irwin said. “But I’ve seen us grow and mature this season, being on the road, we’ve been on the road forever. ... For us to keep our composure and hold on to the win is a big thing for us. I’ve seen it slip away a couple times, and I’ve seen us panic.”
Even when the Lady Spartans had the margin cut to 51-47 with 3:11 left after a baseline jumper for Gregas, the Lady Little Lions didn’t give in to the North Schuylkill full-court pressure.
“We do a really good job of trying to keep ourselves at a comfort level,” Kyla Irwin said. “When the score starts to get close, people start to kick in and take their roles on the floor.”
The team was playing just its third home game through nine contests this season, and also was coming off a four-day break without a practice during the holiday.
“It’s amazing what you lose in four days,” Bethany Irwin said.
Burrell prevailed 55-53 over Northampton in overtime in the first game of the day behind a huge 30-point effort from Sydney Bordonaro. The senior guard drilled three 3-pointers as part of a 17-point first half, and scored four of her team’s six points in overtime. Natalie Myers added 13 points and Eliza Oswalt netted 12 as three girls accounted for all of the Lady Bucs’ scoring.
Aja Blount’s 27 points paced the Konkrete Kids.