Lady Tigers pounce on Lady Chucks early

PUNXSUTAWNEY โ€” The Lady Chucks basketball team knew it had its hands full when the Lady Tigers of Hollidaysburg โ€” defending District VI champion and perennial powerhouse โ€” rolled into town on snow-covered roads Friday night.

Punxsy (3-9, 0-2) wasn't able to break the Lady Tigers' press, and Hollidaysburg scored eight points in the first minute and opened with a 13-0 run on its way to a 78-32 win.

"They're strong; they're fast; and they're physical," Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz said after the game. "They're where we would like to be. Offensively, they don't have a weakness, and defensively, there aren't many weaknesses either. They work together well, help each other out and communicate. They're fundamentally sound and just a good ball team."

Hollidaysburg's senior forward Alex Gildea was a force to be reckoned with, as she piled up 21 points, and Hollidaysburg saw two other players reach double digits with juniors Morgan Griffith scoring 14 and Susie Ellis putting up 12.

"Griffith is big, physical and very athletic," Reitz said. "We played in front of her, and they lobbed it in to her. We played behind her, and she was physical enough to get to the basket. You double down on her, and she finds the open girls, who all hit their threes tonight."

Punxsy had no answer for the Lady Tigers from the start, as Hollidaysburg opened on a 13-0 run in the first two minutes of the game.

Gildea opened the scoring just seconds into the game after a quick play drawn up from the tip, and the Lady Tigers earned three quick steals and baskets by Rachel McClain, Gildea and Ellis. Punxsy rotated players off the bench to try to settle in on defense, but the Lady Tigers' scoring prowess was too much, as Ellis hit a three and McClain added a pair of free throws before Taylor Newcome ended the drought for the Lady Chucks with a three of her own.

From that point forward, the Lady Chucks played evenly with Hollidaysburg to end the first quarter down just eight.

The second quarter was all Lady Tigers, though, as they outscored the Lady Chucks 26-4 with Punxsy's only points coming on an early bucket by Ally Fye and a two by Lauren Giavedoni midway through the frame.

Gildea and Griffith set the pace for Hollidaysburg with seven points each in the second quarter alone to lead into a 47-17 halftime lead.

Punxsy played its closest quarter of the game in the third quarter, but Hollidaysburg still managed to eek out a 13-10 margin.

Punxsy ended the quarter with some momentum off a basket by Giavedoni and two quick scores by Shaina Painter.

But the Lady Tigers opened the fourth quarter with another 13-0 run in the first four minutes to put Punxsy away for good.

"We saw a lot of areas we need to improve," Reitz said. "Being strong with the ball; passing the ball; making the proper cuts and hitting the shooters in stride because there isn't a lot of time to get a shot off. We'll get back at it (today), and hopefully, Tuesday night against St. Marys, we'll get a win."

Reitz said that while his girls were definitely a bit deflated after the tough loss, he is confident they'll bounce back and be ready for practice today.

"Hopefully, this will make us practice even harder to get ready for St. Marys," he said. "Our girls are down right now, but tomorrow, I'm sure they'll be ready to get back at it."

In the JV contest, Punxsy gave the Lady Tigers a run for their money.

Despite trailing 31-18 halfway through the third quarter, Punxsy battled back with a 12-2 run over the next six minutes to cut the lead to three early in the fourth.

Unfortunately for the Lady Chucks, the three-point deficit was as close as they would come to Hollidaysburg, which ended the game on a rally of its own, outscoring Punxsy 14-1 in the final five minutes to lock up a 47-31 victory.

The Lady Tigers benefitted from a pair of impressive scorers in Payton Civils, who put up 18 points, and Ashley McClain, who scored 10 second-half points on her way to 15 for the night.

Punxsy's leading scorer was forward Amber Ward, who scored 11 points despite battling a pair of girls who were taller than her.

Painter pitched in with eight in the JV contest to go with her seven in the varsity game.

Emily Reitz scored four for the Lady Chucks, and Anna Horner scored four before leaving the game with an injury.

Ivy Phillips wrapped up the scoring for Punxsy with a pair of points.

Both Punxsy squads look to rebound Tuesday when they host St. Marys (5-6, 2-1) in a District-IX league game.