By Chris Rossetti
KNOX, Pa. – In an early-season battle between the past two District 9 Class A girls’ champions and two of the preseason favorites this season, 2012 champion Keystone overcame a 10-point third-quarter deficit to defeat 2013 champion Clarion 55-50 Wednesday night at Keystone.
“Our mental toughness was great tonight,” Keystone’s second-year head coach Barry Foust said.
Keystone (3-1), which has won three straight, trailed Clarion (1-2) 33-23 after a basket by Kyla Miles 39 seconds into the third quarter.
But the Lady Panthers controlled play after that going on an 8-1 run to get back in the game before using an 18-8 run at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter to grab control of the game.
“We slowed down,” Clarion head coach Roger Walter said. “We got real stagnant and stood around. They made a run, they brought their building back to life and then we were in trouble. We just made a few mental mistakes.”
Junior point guard Madison Johnson, back after tearing an ACL last season, played a key role in the comeback scoring seven third-quarter points while also dishing out a pair of assists in the frame.
“It absolutely helps to have that experience,” Foust said. “Maddie is like your floor general when she is out there. She can take control of a game, and as the game progressed, she took control of it.”
Free-throw shooting also helped Keystone, as the Lady Panthers were 10 of 10 from the line in the second half including 8 of 8 in the final 4:55 with senior Mallory Reed going a perfect 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter including two with 51.6 seconds left that extended Keystone’s lead to five, 51-46, and two more with 11.3 seconds remaining that once again put the lead to five, 53-48.
“Mal is a pressure player,” Foust said. “If there is anybody you want on the line, it’s going to be her.”
While the charity stripe was kind to Keystone, it wasn’t to Clarion. The Lady Cats were 6 of 20 from the free-throw line including 5 of 14 in the second half.
“It’s a 10-year problem, isn’t it?” Walter said. “You can’t change that. You make them or miss them. What we can change are a couple of mental mistakes. But for a team, three games into a season still trying to fill a lot of roles, I told the girls not to be disappointed. Any time we can play a good team and find one of two reasons why we won or lost, I am completely content.”
Keystone was also able to shut down Clarion’s top two scorers, Miles and Maci Thornton, in the second half limiting the duo to eight second-half points after they had combined for 18 in the first half.
“They went to that 1-1-3 set, and we didn’t adapt to it well enough,” Walter said. “It’s just inexperience. What are we going to do when they do that? We have to get better at it.”
Amber Hess led Keystone with 15 points while hitting four 3-pointers, including three in the first half, and a big one with 3:25 to play that gave Keystone it first five-point lead of the game at 49-44.
“That was the best Amber has shot this year,” Foust said. “I was happy for her.”
Johnson added 14 points and nine rebounds for Keystone with Kennedy McLendon and Reed each chipping in with eight points. Shayla Chapman had nine rebounds as well to go with six tallies.
Miles led Clarion with 14 points while adding eight rebounds, Grace Kroh had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds and Thornton chipped in 12 points.
“That’s a good team we beat,” Foust said. “I think we will see them again down the road.”
KEYSTONE 55, CLARION 50
Score by Quarters
Clarion 12 19 9 10 – 50
Keystone 13 10 17 15 – 55
Clarion – 50
Kelly Beveridge 0 0-0 0, Laken Ganoe 3 1-2 7, Anna Reed 0 0-0 0, Kyla Miles 7 0-5 14, Lauren Wiser 1 0-2 2, Nicki Glenn 2 0-0 4, Maci Thornton 6 0-0 12, Paige Weaver 0 0-0 0, Grace Kroh 3 5-11 11. Totals 22 6-20 50.
Keystone – 55
McKenna Shick 2 0-0 4, Kennedy McLendon 2 4-4 8, Mallory Reed 1 6-6 8, Amber Hess 5 1-2 15, Shayla Chapman 3 0-0 6, Alyssa Beichner 0 0-0 0, Madison Johnson 5 3-6 14. Totals 18 14-18 55.
Three-pointers – Keystone 5 (Hess 4, Johnson)