PUNXSUTAWNEY — When the situation has called for it, the one constant of the 2012-13 girls’ basketball season has been unrelenting defense.
The unrelenting, 32-minute Punxsy Lady Chucks' defense was on its game against a solid Elk County Catholic Lady Crusader squad.
The home Lady Chucks forced 27 turnovers, including three in the late fourth-quarter surge — all off Allie Fye steals — when their offense found its mark off the defensive end for a 39-31 victory in District IX League action.
“Defense once again was solid,” noted Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz. “We run eight kids in and don’t miss a beat on defense. This was a team win tonight, as they all did their share.”
The defensive end, which finished the night with 17 steals, never missed a beat especially late in the game amidst a one possession contest for most of the evening.
Tied at 24-24 after three periods, Ashley Reitz fired an overhead pass across court to Shaina Painter, who promptly hit nothing but net from the left wing. The Painter bucket would give Punxsy a lead, 26-24 at 6:05, it would cling to and extend the rest of the final frame.
Following two Jensen Constantino shots from the charity stripe on the next home trip, ECC’s Kirstie Wetther laid in a lob pass to the right block to pull back within a basket, 28-26, with 5:01 left.
After an extended offensive Punxsy trip, ECC (8-2/1-1 D-IX) could not take advantage of an offensive foul turnover. Allie Fye snatched the first of three Lady Crusaders’ passes out of mid-air and saw Alyssa Reitz find Taylor Newcome for a top-of-the-key triple. The three-pointer would be one from which the visiting squad would not recover with the scoreboard reading 31-26.
Newcome pulled down the second of two missed ECC free throws on the ensuing possession. Punxsy (7-4/2-0 D-IX) wasted no time in adding to the margin when Nicole DiPietro drained a left-corner jumper from Alyssa Reitz to complete the key 5-0 spurt for the separation the Lady Chucks would need with 2:58 remaining.
ECC’s Taylor DeCanal laid the ball in, only to see DiPietro quickly take the inbounds pass and fire it up court, where Newcome was fouled hard on a drive. Newcome made both shots for a 35-28 game to virtually end any chance of a visiting comeback at 2:38.
Fye picked off the next two ECC offensive trips before DiPietro added two foul shots for a 37-28 contest with 55 seconds to go. The Lady Crusaders connected on three free throws the rest of the way with Newcome dropping in two more foul shots for the Lady Chucks win, 39-31.
“I am happy with the way kids got up and down the floor, the way they communicated and the way they had their heads up to hit the open girl,” pointed out Reitz. “Offensively, we didn’t finish quite as well as Monday.”
Reitz continued, “We were very good making decisions with the ball when we got up. We also are starting to shoot free throws down the stretch.”
Reitz’s squad, which posted its third win in a row, had its best night of the year from the foul line to help take the . The Lady Chucks dropped nine of 10 foul shot attempts through the twine including all eight tries in the deciding final period.
Newcome was the victor's lone double-digit scorer with 13 points. The junior swing player added four steals, two assists and two blocks to her line.
Constantino swiped three balls herself to go with seven points.
DiPietro knocked down two jumpers and two key late foul shots for six points and had her own pair of steals.
Alyssa Reitz dished out three assists, stole two balls and had five points. Painter contributed four points, an assist and a steal, which she turned into a layup.
Despite only amassing two points, Fye garnered the four steals with three within the final four minutes of action.
Anna Horner chipped in two tallies and Ashley Reitz an assist.
ECC was paced by DaCanal’s 11 points. The Lady Crusaders were forced into seven of their 27 miscues in the crucial fourth period.
The affair started out slow on the scoreboard. The two varsity squads combined to shoot only 3 of 19 from the floor in the opening eight minutes.
After a DiPietro jump shot broke the scoring ice, ECC’s Kristy Hanes triple would give the visitors their lone lead of the night, 3-2. Alyssa Reitz and Constantino jump shots put Punxsy ahead 6-3 after one frame.
Leading 10-9 in the second quarter, the Lady Chucks turned up the defensive pressure to the tune of five straight turnovers. The home team converted the ECC miscues into a 17-10 advantage capped by a steal and breakaway layup by Painter. The Lady Crusaders’ Julie Sweeney netted the final two first-half baskets for a 17-14 intermission tally.
For the second time this week, Newcome started the second half with a trey for Punxsy. Only 23 seconds into the third, the Lady Chucks pushed the lead up to 20-14.
ECC whittled the deficit the rest of the quarter and took advantage of Punxsy seeing many shots just off the mark in a 3 for 15 period for a 24-24 tie.
“We have to hold our ground at home, as we did tonight,” commented the Punxsy coach. “We now start with a couple road trips (to a non-conference Hollidaysburg before St. Marys and Bradford). Any time on the road is tough.”
The road will be tough on Friday night with the highly-touted AAAA Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers as the foe. Punxsy will stay away from home next week at St. Marys Tuesday and defending D-IX champ Bradford on Friday.
The junior varsity Lady Chucks continued their undefeated campaign in the opening contest. Punxsy used a dominating second quarter to propel itself to a 37-23 victory over ECC.
Trailing 11-9, Ivy Ferko and Emma White netted four points apiece in a frame where five different home players scored for a 23-13 halftime score.
Punxsy won the second half 14-10 to bring the affair to the 37-23 final.
White totaled her season-best with 17 points. Ferko hit for 11 points of her own.
Amber Ward had four points, with both Claire Smith and Morgan Doverspike having two points each. Hope Bridge made one foul shot.
Punxsy’s Friday contest at Hollidaysburg will have a 6 p.m. tip-off.