By Chris Rossetti
KNOX, Pa. – It was a tale of two halves in the KSAC South girls’ basketball showdown between Moniteau and Keystone Friday night at Keystone, and in the end Keystone’s second half was better than Moniteau’s first in a 35-26 Lady Panthers win.
Keystone (14-6 overall, 7-1 KSAC South), which keeps its hopes alive for a third straight South title, outscored Moniteau (12-7, 4-3), which saw its hopes of a South title end, 23-4 in the second half after trailing by 10, 22-12, at halftime.
“It was a tale of two halves, end of story,” Moniteau head coach Matt Stebbins said. “We were stagnant on offense, missed layups and didn’t play together as a team.”
What Stebbins didn’t say was Keystone clammed down on defense in the second half not only holding Moniteau to 2 of 17 shooting but also forcing 15 Lady Warrior turnovers in the half.
“That was the best defensive game we’ve played,” Keystone head coach Barry Foust said.
Foust particularly pointed out the defensive play of senior Kennedy McLendon as a key to the Lady Panthers second-half surge.
“She’s probably one of the best defenders I’ve coached since Franklin (Foust was an assistant coach at Franklin High School during the Knights glory days),” Foust said. “She was a key for us defensively. The trouble is, you recognize scorers but we don’t recognize defensive players. Kennedy can play defense. She is very good at that. I’m very proud of her.”
Keystone also got a second-half lift, particularly in the third quarter, from its best player, junior guard Madison Johnson. Johnson, who was limited to four first-half points and one first-half basket by Moniteau freshman defensive wizard Alazia Greaves, took over in the third quarter scoring nine of Keystone’s 12 points in the quarter including the Lady Panthers first seven to help Keystone tie the game at 24 at the end of the quarter.
“I just knew we were down, and we were lacking,” Johnson said. “So, I just tried to step up and get something going. I just took it to the hole to get something started, I guess.”
Johnson, though, like her coach, was quick to point to Keystone’s defense as the real turning point in the game.
“Definitely our defense turned things around,” Johnson said. “We stepped up and played like we know how.”
The momentum created by Johnson and the defense carried over into the fourth quarter, and when freshman Kaci Weaver hit a 3-pointer from the left-wing corner two minutes into the quarter to give Keystone’s its first lead since a minute into the game, 27-24, the momentum had completely swung to the Lady Panthers.
“For a freshman to come off the bench and shoot the ball, that’s impressive,” Foust said. “I’m very happy for Kaci. That was a beautiful look, and she knocked it down.”
Moniteau had one last crack at getting back in the game when Emily Rider banked home a shot with 3:43 to play to get the Lady Warriors back within two, 28-26, but McLendon answered with a pair of baskets a minute apart to put the game away.
“I’m proud of them,” Foust said. “This is a great win for us. To beat a team like Moniteau, they are very well coached and a very good defensive team as well. This was a good situation for these kids to be in because a lot of them haven’t been in this situation.”
Keystone was able to get back in the game because it found a way to stay in the game in the first half despite shooting 5 of 24 and committing 11 turnovers.
“I was happy to be down 10,” Foust said. “We turned the ball over and were missing shots.”
While Foust was happy to be down just 10 at the break, Stebbins was frustrated his team only led by 10 despite clearly out playing the Lady Panthers the entire half.
Part of the reason the Lady Warriors couldn’t expand their lead farther was because of poor foul shooting (0-for-6) and a lousy shooting second quarter (3 of 17) after hitting on 7 of 11 shots in the first eight minutes of the game.
“That should have been a 20-point ball game at least going into halftime,” Stebbins said. “They went into halftime happy because it wasn’t 20, and we were disappointed because it was only 10.”
Johnson led all scorers with 16 points and finished off a double-double with 12 rebounds. McClendon was Keystone’s second-leading scorer with five points.
Fontaine Glenn paced Moniteau with 10 points, six in the first quarter. Stephanie McCall added four points a game-high 19 rebounds, including 14 first-half boards. Rider chipped in with seven points and three assists.
Keystone returns to action Monday when it hosts Karns City, who is also 7-1 in the KSAC South, in a game that will put the winner in the driver’s seat for the KSAC South title.
Moniteau will try to regroup Saturday at Union before traveling to Karns City Tuesday.
KEYSTONE 35, MONITEAU 26
Score by Quarters
Moniteau 16 6 2 2 – 26
Keystone 8 4 12 11 – 35
Moniteau – 26
Alazia Greaves 1 0-2 2, Alycia Brehm 1 0-2 3, Stephanie McCall 2 0-2 4, Emily Rider 3 0-0 7, Fontaine Glenn 5 0-0 10, Sara Hull 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Dailey 0 0-0 0, Kristina DeMatteis 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 0-6 26.
Keystone – 35
Shayla Chapman 1 0-0 2, Madison Johnson 5 6-7 16, McKenna Shick 1 0-0 2, Mallory Reed 1 0-3 2, Kennedy McLendon 2 1-3 5, Amber Hess 0 1-2 1, Alyssa Beichner 2 0-0 4, Kaci Weaver 1 0-0 3. Totals 13 8-15 35.
Three-pointers: Moniteau 2 (Brehm, Rider). Keystone 1 (Weaver).