The Penns Valley girls’ basketball team had built a double-digit lead in the first half, but slowly Philipsburg-Osceola began to whittle away at the margin.
When the game got tight for the Lady Rams, coach Karen McCaffrey had a message for her team.
“We pulled them over and said, ‘This is your last eight minutes of, possibly, the season,’” she said. “As they have all season long they dug deep, we had a couple big hits and, as we did the other day at our gym, we stopped their run.”
With a trio of Lady Rams scoring in double figures, Penns Valley held off the Lady Mounties’ comeback plans 59-41 Monday night at Huntingdon Area High School in the District 6 Class AA first round.
Sixth-seeded Penns Valley (13-9) heads to the quarterfinals to meet No. 3 Tyrone later this week, at a site and time to be determined.
“It feels great to get another chance at Tyrone,” said Karli Ripka, who led the way with 17 points.
She was joined by Mackenzie Ironside’s 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Bethany Miller’s 12 points and seven rebounds. Maci Ilgen posted nine points and three steals, Cheyenne Swartz had four assists and Kylie Orndorff added three blocks.
P-O (7-15) was paced by Haylee Hayward’s 13 points and 10 rebounds, Cheyanne Cowfer’s 11 points and three steals, Cheyenne Bone’s eight points, Madison Foreman’s five rebunds and Abby Showers’ seven points, four rebounds and three steals.
While Penns Valley saw the Lady Mounties take off on a few runs, the Lady Rams did keep some containment on P-O’s athletic guards Hayward, Cowfer and Showers.
“We did a good job of knowing who we had to guard tonight, and stepping up to make sure the lanes were filled,” McCaffrey said.
Penns Valley built a lead as large as 13 points in the first half, with a lot of help from Ripka, who was bombing 3-pointers.
“It felt great,” Ripka said. “I knew I just had to hold my followthrough and use my legs.”
She scored eight of her points in the second quarter, including a pair of threes in the first 2:09 of the frame to take the margin to 19-7.
“That’s her shot,” McCaffrey said. “As soon as it comes from the post out. We were like — everybody on the bench, ‘There’s her shot.’ We know she’s going to make more than not.”
However, after hitting 55 percent of their shots in the opening 16 minutes, the Lady Rams went cold after the break, making just 3 of 12 field goal attempts in the third quarter, including seeing just a Ripka layup in the first five minutes after intermission.
Two buckets from Bone and one from Hayward had the margin down to 35-30 before another trey from Ripka briefly ended that run, but Cowfer answered with a 3-pointer of her own 11 seconds later, and a layup from Hayward had P-O within three.
Ironside ended the quarter with a 3-pointer, and a Showers bucket to complete a fast break opened the fourth to get the margin back to 41-37, but the rally essentially ended there.
“We knew what we had to do,” Ripka said. “We had to get down on defense and not foul.”
P-O made just two of its final 12 field goal attempts, including missing several layups, and had four turnovers, leaving a lot of empty possessions for the Lady Mounties.
“That is really frustrating,” P-O coach Doug Myers said. “A team like Penns Valley, if you do that, you have a really tough time winning the game. You’ve got to execute when you get the chance to execute. Even the easy baskets that we missed, against a good team like Penns Valley, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Penns Valley iced the win by making 8 of 10 free throws in the final 3:24, accompanying three Miller layups as the Lady Rams broke down the Lady Mounties’ defense.
“Penns Valley’s good,” Myers said. “They play smart basketball. They really played smart down at the end. We have a lot of respect for them.”
It sets up a rematch with Tyrone in the quarterfinals. The teams finished 1-2 in the Mountain League, with the Eagles taking both regular-season meetings, including 56-46 last week.
“They’re a really good team,” McCaffrey said. “We know it’s going to take us playing the best that we possibly can, and smart, but we don’t have to scout too much.”