MARION CENTER — The Lady Chucks basketball team concluded its play at the Marion Center second annual Cancer Awareness Tip-Off Tournament in what Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz called a "tale of two halves," falling 55-36 to the Lady Dragons of Central Martinsburg.
After being outscored 32-13 in the first half, Punxsy's offense found its rhythm, and the Lady Chucks outscored Central 14-11 in the third quarter.
Central quickly pushed its lead to 21 with a basket one minute into the third, but Punxsy scored eight unanswered points to cut into the lead.
The rally started with solid ball movement by the Lady Chucks, which opened up the middle and allowed entry passes to their bigs.
Freshman Jensen Constantino was the first to capitalize, notching two free throws after an aggressive drive to the hoop.
Sophomore Taylor Newcome added a three-pointer, and fellow sophomore Kasey Prescott added a free-throw.
Punxsy fed Constantino once again, and she took it strong to the hoop and finished to cut the deficit to 11.
But the Lady Chucks momentum slowed as Central made adjustments, and the Lady Dragons regained the edge with five straight points by 5-foot-11 senior center Lindsey Smith to finish the quarter.
Smith, who finished as the game's high scorer with 26 points, was a force to be reckoned with for Punxsy defenders the entire game.
"Defensively, we had some mental breakdowns today, especially inside against (Smith)" Reitz said. "She was physical, and she was quick. We were just out of position a few times, and that caused her to end up with some three-point plays. She drew the foul, went to the line and knocked it down."
The story of the fourth quarter was similar to that of the third, with Punxsy's offense hitting its marks, and Constantino nabbing five quick points to pull within 11 again.
But Central settled in, started feeding the ball to Smith and cushioned its lead to earn a 55-36 victory.
Even in defeat, Reitz was able to spot many positives about his team's play, especially in the second half.
"There were some positives today," he said. "Our bigs did a really nice job finishing inside, and we just have to keep building on that."
On the whole, Reitz was also pleased with the progress he has seen in his team at practice and in the tip-off tournament against some very difficult teams. He said overall, the tournament helped him determine where his team chemistry is strongest, heading into the regular season opener Thursday against Brookville.
"It helped us to evaluate some personnel and where to play some people," he said. "We also learned who they play off of better. We're trying to build some continuity and things like that. It's a good tournament, and there were some really good teams here, so hopefully, that'll help us get ready for the season."
Reitz and his team have three days of practice ahead of them before opening the regular season Thursday night against Route 36 rival Brookville.
"Overall, we'll just keep plugging away, working hard and getting ready for Brookville Thursday night," Reitz said of his plans for the week.
On a positive note, Punxsy's JV squad faced off against Central's junior varsity and earned a 29-21 victory in its first game of the season.
The JV team opens Punxsy's regular season with a 6 p.m. tip-off at Brookville Thursday. The varsity game will follow.