MARION CENTER — The young, aggressive Punxsy girls' hoops team clawed its way the entire contest, but fell short as Westmont-Hilltop rode Erin Rogers’ 23-point night to a 50-45 victory in the Marion Center 3rd Annual Cancer Awareness Tip-off Tournament Friday night.
The Lady Chucks pulled to within a point, 44-43, with 59 seconds remaining, but Rogers connected on all six of her free throws from there to seal the Lady Hilltoppers close win.
“Westmont-Hilltop is a very good basketball team and they will win a lot of games this year,” noted Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz. “Rogers hurt us as she made some tough shots and went 12 of 12 free throws, which made it hard to come back. Every time we made it to within a point she was there.”
On the evening, Taylor Newcome paced the Punxsy effort with 15 points including a 10-point second quarter. Nicole DiPietro and Emily Horner added eight points apiece. Alyssa Reitz and Jensen Constantino chipped in six points, with Shaina Painter laying in a bucket.
Rogers led all scorers with her 23-point night including the perfect 12 of 12 from the charity stripe. As a team, the Lady Hilltoppers downed 23 of 30 free throws. Alyssa Miller also hit double digits with 14 points, including seven in the third quarter.
Trailing 35-30 after three quarters, Ashley Reitz dished to Newcome in the right corner for a three-pointer 32 seconds into the fourth to make it 35-33.
After two Rogers free throws to make it 38-33 with 6:58 remaining, Westmont-Hilltop switched into a zone defense against Punxsy.
“When they went to zone, we didn’t attack it aggressively enough,”said the Punxsy coach. “We were tentative, threw the ball around outside and needed to get the ball into the post.”
The Lady Hilltoppers lead grew to 40-33 before a free throw and a triple from DiPietro pulled the Lady Chucks to within three points, 40-37, with 2:52 on the clock.
Westmont-Hilltop pushed its lead back to seven, 44-37, before Punxsy made another hard charge. Constantino made a steal at mid-court and passed the ball up to DiPietro, who laid the ball in.
After a Punxsy timeout, DiPietro found Alyssa Reitz on the left wing for a three-pointer to cut it to 44-42 at 1:09.
DiPietro continued her attempt to will Punxsy back in front. The sophomore was pushed by a Westmont-Hilltop player for an offensive foul on its breakaway rush. DiPietro made the first shot in a one-and-one trip to the foul line but saw the game-tying try fall off the rim for a 44-43 tally with 59 ticks in the affair.
After a Lady Chucks turnover, an empty trip to the foul line and a missed three-pointer, Rogers pushed the Lady Hilltoppers ahead 48-43 on four free throws with 44 seconds remaining.
Constantino laid in a basket with 4.8 seconds for a 48-45 contest, but that was not enough. Rogers made one last pair of free throws for the 50-45 final and Westmont-Hilltop victory.
By the end of the contest, Punxsy saw three members of its nine-player rotation foul out in the opener.
“Depth played a big role with kids in foul trouble,” commented Reitz. “This group just hustles, and there’s no quit. They play 32 minutes as hard as they can play and are interchangeable.”
The Lady Chucks owned the advantage most of the night’s first quarter. Horner stole a Westmont pass and drove in for two points to tie the game and swiped another ball before Newcome made it a 4-2 lead halfway through the first frame.
A Painter layup and Alyssa Reitz triple gave what would be Punxsy’s largest lead of the game, 10-4, with 1:59 in the first. Westmont netted the quarter’s last seven tallies for an 11-10 advantage.
Trailing 18-14 in the second quarter, Horner laid the ball in off an Ally Fye pass. Newcome accounted for the rest of Punxsy’s first half points with four buckets for a tight 24-23 lead after 24 minutes.
Leading 24-23 at intermission, the Punxsy slim advantage lasted only 36 seconds into the second half. Rogers and Miller each hit inside buckets to put Westmont-Hilltop ahead 27-24.
Following a Constantino layup for Punxsy, Miller netted the next five points for Westmont-Hilltop to make it 32-28 at 3:57 in the third stanza before changing its defensive strategy.
The Lady Hilltoppers switched from man-to-man to a zone defensive at that point. Contstantino used a head fake and drove in for a layup, but Punxsy still trailed 35-30 after three frames.
The young Punxsy squad gave coach Reitz many positives on its first audition.
“The kids did a very nice job handling Westmont’s pressure and communicating against the man-to-man offensively,” added Reitz. “We are still young with experience but it’s young experience. Each game we want to grow as a team and, by the end of the year, we will be a pretty good team.”
The Lady Chucks head now into the consolation game today. Punxsy will face West Shamokin which dropped a 42-30 game to host Marion Center. The junior varsity squads will play first starting at 9 a.m. before the varsity matchup is slated for 10:15 a.m.
“We are looking to be back and ready for tomorrow,” concluded Reitz.
In the late game, the Punxsy boys started their season off on the winning note by defeating host Marion Center, 57-45.
Brandon Mancuso led the Chucks with 18 points. Garrett Zimmerman added 11 points while both Devin Nicholson and Tyler Young chipped in 10 tallies apiece. See more on the contest in Monday's edition.
The Chucks will face A-C Valley in the Marion Center Tournament Championship tomorrow night. The junior varsity clubs will play at 5:15 p.m. with the varsity title tilt having a 6:30 p.m. tip.