Make it 3 in a row for the Lady Chucks
PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy girls' basketball team — a squad typically known for its defensive prowess — scored 60 points for the second consecutive game, including 22 in the first quarter, on its way to a 60-48 victory over Purchase Line Monday night in Punxsutawney.
After opening the season with seven straight losses, Punxsy has now won three games in a row and is gaining confidence with each win.
"It was kind of nice to finally get out to a double-digit lead," Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz said. "Everyone can relax when you do that. You feel more comfortable, and the shots were going in tonight. Hopefully, we can continue to jump out to some fast starts on the offensive end."
Punxsy, a young squad that looked timid on the offensive end early in the season, has been working on its confidence in its shooting abilities, and Reitz said it's good to see that confidence starting to manifest in some points on the scoreboard.
"The confidence is contagious," he said. "When one or two people knock down the jump shot, the people coming off the bench seem to get more comfortable, and the game just seems to be easier. Tonight, we were able to get some easy points off our defensive pressure, and I think that helped our confidence."
The first quarter was all Lady Chucks, as Purchase Line's only basket came five minutes into the game, while Punxsy racked up 22 points from six different players.
Senior guard Alex Magill opened the scoring for Punxsy when she knocked down a jumper. Sophomore Emily Horner quickly followed suit, and Lauren Giavedoni added a basket of her own to push Punxsy's lead to 6-0.
After a Purchase Line timeout to try to stop the bleeding, Magill hit another jumper. Nicole DiPietro and Alyssa Reitz scored next to push the lead to 12-0 before Purchase Line's Melanie Hilliard erased the Lady Dragons' zero from the board with a basket in the paint.
In the final three minutes of the quarter, though, DiPietro scored seven points on a three and two shots from inside the arc.
Taylor Newcome, coming off a 36-point game Friday night, hit a three to extend Punxsy's lead to 20 points at the first break.
Punxsy's lead held steady throughout the first half of the second quarter with four points by Horner leading the way for the Lady Chucks.
Purchase Line's sharp shooter Cassie Brocious also hit her first three early in the second quarter and went on to finish the half with eight points.
When Punxsy rotated the starters back into the game, Magill cashed in for five more points on a three and a pair of free throws.
The Lady Chucks ended the quarter on a 5-0 run courtesy of a Jensen Constantino foul shot and baskets by DiPietro and freshman Shaina Painter to extend the halftime lead to 28.
Purchase Line outscored the Lady Chucks 13-10 in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 20 at one point, as their outside shooting started to heat up.
In part, the Lady Dragons' run could be attributed to Punxsy playing an unfamiliar zone defense — an area in which Reitz said his team still needs to improve.
"We tried to work on some different things in the second half," he said. "We worked on our zone defense, and needless to say, it still needs some work. Mostly, we lost track of Cassie Brocious. She's a good ball player, and you can't lose track of the shooter when we're in that zone. But there are certain games we will probably need to drop into a zone, so it was nice to be able to work on that some tonight."
Despite the short run by Purchase Line, Punxsy's defense settled in again late in the quarter and Magill, Giavedoni and DiPietro each hit late baskets to push the lead back to 25 entering the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Punxsy was outscored 23-10, in large part due to too much relaxation, Reitz said.
"They did a better job of attacking our zone, but I think we relaxed a bit, too," he said. "We need to play hard for 32 minutes, and you can't relax like that. That's something we're learning, and we keep stressing it in practice, and of course, in the games."
Despite the large fourth-quarter scoring disparity, the Lady Chucks' lead was more than enough, and they cruised to a 60-48 victory over their out-of-league foe.
Magill and DiPietro led the scoring for the Lady Chucks with 14 apiece, while Brocious came in the game's high scorer with 22. McLaughlin also scored 14 points, all in the second half, for Purchase Line.
Horner, Constantino and Newcome each had six for Punxsy, as well.
Punxsy's next contest will be on the road — the Lady Chucks' first away game since Dec. 19, 2011, at Clearfield — when the Lady Chucks travel to Elk County Catholic Wednesday to take on the 9-0 Lady Crusaders.
"Any time you go up to Elk County, it's one of the toughest places to play in District IX," Reitz said. "They come at you with hard man-to-man defense, they're well coached, and they have some good athletes. So, we're going to have to match their intensity level and take care of the basketball."
Prior to the varsity game Monday night, the teams' JV squads faced off, and although Punxsy's offense struggled to put points up early, the Lady Chucks' stifling defense proved to be good enough to earn a 32-27 victory.
Punxsy allowed just 12 points in the first half, but scored only 13 in a tight defensive contest.
The Lady Chucks broke the game open in the third quarter, though, doubling their scoring with 13 more points and holding the Lady Dragons to just two points.
Purchase Line outscored Punxsy 13-6 in the final quarter, but the Lady Chucks held firm enough to hold on for the win.
Painter led the scoring for Punxsy with 11 points. Emily Reitz had seven for the Lady Chucks, while Ivy Phillips notched five.
Purchase Line's Jenna Neff was the game's high-scorer with 13.
The JV squad will open Wednesday night's action at ECC with a 6 p.m. tip-off.