PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” Despite giving up a nine-point halftime lead in the third quarter, the Punxsy girls' basketball team battled back and outscored the Lady Dutch of St. Marys 20-8 in the final stanza to claim a 62-50 victory Tuesday night in Punxsutawney.
After the game, Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz said battling back and not quitting are traits his young team possesses as a strength.
"These girls battle the entire game, whether we're up or down," he said. "They're going to play hard for 32 minutes. It's just a trait of this team."
Punxsy's battling spirit had to kick in early, as St. Marys jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first two minutes on baskets by Sloan Foster and Becky Krieg and a pair of free throws by Jenna Anderson.
Punxsy sent a group of fresh subs in from the bench, including Nicole DiPietro at the six-minute mark, and DiPietro went on to score eight unanswered Lady Chucks' points to put Punxsy back in the game.
With three minutes left in the frame, Punxsy still trailed 10-8, but senior guard Alex Magill knocked down a pair of deep threes to give Punxsy its first lead of the game, 14-10.
Punxsy would have taken the four-point lead into the second quarter if it weren't for a buzzer-beating three by Anderson to narrow the gap to one.
In the second quarter, the Lady Chucks opened up a lead by outscoring the Lady Dutch 17-9.
It was a balanced attack for Punxsy, with Taylor Newcome leading the way with six points in the quarter.
Magill, Alyssa Reitz, Jensen Constantino and Ally Fye also scored for Punxsy in the stanza to give the Lady Chucks some much-desired breathing room.
Coming out of halftime, though, St. Marys capitalized on some easy transition baskets, and junior guard Adair Gennocro's shooting hand heated up, as she hit three threes, a two and a pair of free throws in the third alone to lead the Lady Dutch to a 20-11 third quarter â€” one that tied the game entering the fourth.
"I thought our kids played with a lot more confidence tonight," coach Reitz said. "Defensively, we played really well in the first half and shot the ball very well. In the second half, we gave up a few easy baskets that put them back in the game, but then our defense tok over, and we were able to knock down some outside shots when we needed them."
The Lady Chucks hunkered down in the fourth quarter, and seven different Punxsy girls scored while St. Marys managed only eight points against Punxsy's pressure defense to seal the deal for Punxsy.
"In the fourth quarter, we did what we needed to in order to win," Reitz said. "We played well defensively, we moved the ball around, and we hit our foul shots."
Punxsy went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the fourth to ice the win, and Newcome scored seven points to lead the attack for Punxsy.
"In the fourth quarter, the girls just battled," Reitz said. "They've done it all year and have improved with each game and practice."
Punxsy was led in the scoring department by three players in double-digits. Newcome scored 16 to lead the Lady Chucks, and Magill came in right behind her with 15.
After scoring eight in the first quarter, DiPietro's hand was cooled by the refs' whistles, as she found herself in foul trouble â€” a byproduct of Punxsy's aggressive defensive nature.
In fact, three Punxsy players â€” Ashley Reitz, DiPietro and Fye â€” found themselves on the bench more than usual due to foul trouble, but coach Reitz said he doesn't stress about his players playing aggressively.
"It doesn't worry me, because we're very deep," he said. "Because we have enough bigs and enough guards, we can sub in and out when someone gets in foul trouble. Tonight, we did just that. Ashley and Nicole had two or three early fouls, and Aly got into foul trouble, too. But whoever we subbed in did a nice job for us."
Gennocro's 13 third-quarter points led her to a game-high 22 points in the Lady Dutch's losing effort.
Punxsy's next challenge is one that will truly put the young squad to the test, when the Lady Chucks travel to Bradford to face the undefeated Lady Owls Friday.
Punxsy hopes its solid defense and balanced scoring can lead it to an upset win in an important district game.
The JV game was a thrilling one, with a basket by Rachael Barnett with less than five seconds left giving Punxsy a 38-36 edge over the Lady Dutch.
Punxsy trailed by as many as seven in the fourth quarter but fought back to earn the late-game victory.
Barnett added six other points to score eight for Punxsy, which was led by Shaina Painter's 17.
Amber Ward and Emily Reitz each put up six points, and Ivy Phillips wrapped up the scoring with a free throw.View more articles in: