By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Keystone went stone cold from the field in the second half, and it cost the Lady Panthers in a 41-33 loss to Claysburg-Kimmel in the opening round of the PIAA Class A girls’ basketball playoffs Saturday afternoon at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Keystone head coach Barry Foust said. “We make four or five more shots, we win the game.”
Keystone (18-9) hit just 5 of 33 (15.2 percent) of its second-half shots and finished the game shooting 12 of 56 (21.4 percent). The Lady Panthers also turned the ball over 22 times leading to 20 points by Claysburg-Kimmel (21-5), the third-place team out of District 6.
The Lady Bulldogs, who trailed 19-16 at halftime, used that defense to outscore Keystone 25-14 in the second half including 12-5 in the third quarter.
“I thought they came out and played with a little more intensity in the second half,” Foust said. “But I still felt our girls played hard. It’s just that we need to get stronger in the offseason. That is what we need to work on, I believe.”
Keystone’s second-half woes started after Amber Hess, who had a team-high 13 points, hit a 3-pointer a minute into the half to give the Lady Panthers a 22-19 lead.
That was the last Keystone basket until Madison Johnson hit a jumper with eight seconds left in the quarter to get the Lady Panthers within four, 28-24, going to the fourth quarter.
The Johnson jumper was just one of four the junior made on the night – she was 4 of 17 from the floor including 1 of 8 from 3-point range – as Claysburg-Kimmel flustered her with a diamond-and-one defense and held her to nine points, tying for her second-lowest output of the season – she entered the game averaging 17.2 ppg including 24.0 in four playoff games.
“Our defense did a good job,” Claysburg-Kimmel head coach Jeff Appleman said. “Basically we put our best defender (Abby Kulick) on (Johnson) and played like a diamond-and-one and tried to cover everybody else with the diamond. All night long it worked. We worked on it all week, and we really thought it would be effective on this team. It was.”
Keystone got within two, the closest it would get the remainder of the game, 13 seconds into the fourth quarter when Kennedy McClendon hit a layup to make it 28-26.
But the Lady Bulldogs answered with a 7-1 run that saw three different players score to build the advantage to 35-27 with 2:11 to play.
Then, after missing five straight free throws, Claysburg-Kimmel found the range from the line nailing six of the next seven to build the lead to a game-high 11 points, 41-30, with 35 seconds to play.
Freshman Liz Weiland played a big role in the victory for the Lady Bulldogs finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in a spot start for leading 3-pointer shooter Paige Burk, who missed the game with an apparent injury.
“Liz did a great job rebounding, on defense, with putbacks,” Appleman said. “She had a great game. I knew the game wouldn’t fluster her because she is so focused on doing a good job and helping the team win.”
Weiland picked up the offensive slack left by leading scorer Abby Kulick, who like her counterpart Johnson, struggled from the floor shooting just 3 of 20 and going just 3 of 10 from the free-throw line. But she still finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and two assists while being given the primary duty of shutting down Johnson.
“She didn’t let it (her offensive troubles) bother her on the defensive end,” Appleman said. “She plays hard all the time. She is the leader of this team. She keeps everybody together.”
Kari Glass added 11 points and four boards for Claysburg-Kimmel, who will play District 10 champion Kennedy Catholic in the second round Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL 41, KEYSTONE 33
Score by Quarters
Claysburg-Kimmel 8 8 12 13 – 41
Keystone 9 10 5 9 – 33
Claysburg-Kimmel – 41
Alexis Locke 2 0-3 4, Kari Glass 2 5-8 11, Liz Weiland 4 6-6 14, Abby Kulick 3 3-10 10, Madison Ickes 1 0-0 2, Cassidy Imler 0 0-0 0, Holly Acker 0 0-0 0, Rachel Walter 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 14-27 41.
Keystone – 33
McKenna Shick 1 1-2 4, Kennedy McClendon 1 0-0 2, Mallory Reed 0 2-2 2, Shayla Champman 1 0-0 3, Madison Johnson 4 0-2 9, Amber Hess 5 0-0 13, Alyssa Beichner 0 0-0 0, Kaci Weaver 0 0-0 0. Totals – 12 3-6 33.
3-pointerss: Claysburg-Kimmel 3 (Glass 2, Kulick). Keystone 6 (Hess 3, Shick, Chapman, Johnson).