Lady Chucks, Chucks ring in the season at M.C. Tourney

MARION CENTER — The Lady Chucks and Chucks basketball teams opened their seasons against the Lady Stingers and Stingers of Marion Center in the second-annual Cancer Awareness Tip-Off Tournament Friday in Marion Center.

Unfortunately for both Punxsy squads, the Lady Stingers and Stingers — known for perennially strong teams — were able to thwart them in their season openers.

In the girls' contest, Punxsy — a very young team with just two seniors and no juniors — fell victim to the Lady Stingers' swarming defense in a 38-32 loss.

Punxsy's strength is also its defense, but the Lady Stingers' trap defense forced Punxsy into more turnovers than it could afford to earn the victory.

"Offensively, I thought we might be a little behind because we're young at the guards," Punxsy head coach Randy Reitz said after the game. "Tonight, I think it showed a little bit, as we turned it over quite a few times out front, and we just didn't seem to feel comfortable."

Despite the lower final score, the two teams came out firing in the first quarter, and the scoreboard read 14-11 after one.

Punxsy struck first less than 30 seconds into the game when Alex Magill hit a jumper from the top of the key, but Marion Center answered back just seconds later with a layup to knot the score at two.

Magill's hot hand struck again with a three-pointer in the back-and-forth opening, but Marion Center earned another quick score to keep it close.

At that point, both defenses clamped down, and neither team was able to score until Marion Center's Chantel Glasser dropped a pair of free throws with three minutes left in the quarter to give the Lady Stingers a 6-5 lead.

The teams traded buckets on the next four consecutive possessions with Punxsy's Emily Horner adding a pair of free throws, and Jensen Constantino scoring the next basket on a nice feed from Horner.

Punxsy's Taylor Newcome broke the Marion Center trap and drove down for a layup to bring the Lady Chucks within three with 25 ticks left on the clock, but Marion Center's Jenny Irvin beat the buzzer to push the lead back to three after one quarter.

The second quarter was dominated by defense, and the Lady Chucks outscored Marion Center 6-5 in the quarter to cut the deficit to two at halftime.

The quarter was high- lighted by a big block by Ally Fye on the defensive end and baskets by Magill and freshman point guard Alyssa Reitz off steals.

Lauren Giavedoni also added a basket on a nice diving save by Fye, who picked up the assist.

In the second half, though, Punxsy's offense seemed to struggle to get its wheels in motion after the Lady Stingers made some adjustments.

After the game, coach Reitz pointed out some things his offense still needs to keep improving.

"We tried to feed the post at times when it wasn't there," he said. "We just didn't get into a rhythm. The more we practice and the more games we play, the more comfortable we're going to be, but we have to keep hammering on the offensive end."

Despite the sluggish offensive start, Punxsy's defense was actually the stronger of the two in the half's early minutes, and Newcome found the hot hand for Punxsy, knocking down a pair of threes — the first of which gave Punxsy it's final lead of the night at 22-21 with 5:22 left in the third.

Marion Center's stifling defense clamped down from that point forward, though and prevented the Lady Chucks from working up the floor.

The Lady Stingers cashed in on some easy layups after steals forced by their press and pulled out to a 32-27 lead after three.

Marion Center scored a pair of quick baskets in the fourth quarter and played keep away from the Lady Chucks from that point forward.

The majority of Punxsy's fourth-quarter offense came during a strange play where Magill hit a three-pointer and was fouled after she shot, giving her an opportunity to hit two extra free throws on a one-and-one situation since her team was in the bonus.

Magill's two free throws brought Punxsy back within striking distance at 36-32 with 1:33 left in the game, but the Lady Chucks couldn't produce any more points, and the game ended with a final basket by Glasser setting the score at 38-32.

Despite falling to the Lady Stingers, coach Reitz still saw lots of promising things from his club.

"Defensively, I thought we did some things well," he said. "We got into passing lanes, created some turnovers, and our big people did a nice job checking out. Overall, I was pleased defensively, but we still have to keep moving forward."

The thing he liked most was his team's non-stop hustle on both ends.

"They don't quit; they get after it," he said. "We get a little more experience on the offensive end, I think things'll come into place. We just have to be a little patient and a little more patient on the floor. That comes with experience."

The girls' team will play in the consolation game today at 10:15 a.m.

In a game that finished just prior to The Spirit's deadline, the Stingers defeated the Chucks in a hard-fought battle, 53-47.

Daniel Triponey led the scoring for the Chucks with 16, and Brandon Mancuso followed closely with 14.

Alex Fedigan had 10 points, Garrett Zimmerman added three, and Luke Janocha and Ian Miller each scored two.

Despite the final outcome, boys' head coach Dirk Neal was pleased with the effort his players put in.

"I thought, overall, we were an inexperienced squad early on," Neal said. "We were standing around and not flashing to the ball. But once some of our shooters knocked down some shots, our big men started giving us some second and third looks. Once we talked about some of the mistakes, we didn't duplicate them, and I was just pleased with our effort against a team that returned several players who played a lot last year."

Punxsy will play West Shamokin in the boys' consolation game with JV's tipping at 2:30 p.m. and varsity at 3:45 p.m.