HOLLIDAYSBURG — Marion Center has been playing some of its best basketball in the past couple weeks, but the Stingers couldn’t seem to get it right when it mattered the most.
The seventh-seeded Stingers put together a solid first half Wednesday night, but faltered in the second half of a 50-44 loss to Juniata in the semifinals of the girls’ District 6 Class AA playoffs at Hollidaysburg High School.
Even though they won’t compete for a district championship this weekend, the Stingers still have an important matchup in their sights. Marion Center (20-5) will face off with Heritage Conference champion Blairsville in the consolation game Friday at Homer-Center High School.
Only the winner will advance to the PIAA playoffs.
“We have a quick turnaround,” Marion Center coach Jan Brocious said.
“We have one day of practice to get focused, and we can still go to the state playoffs. Life’s not over, the season’s not over, but we have to come ready.”
Juniata held an 8-3 lead halfway through the first quarter, but the Stingers answered with a 9-0 run that put them ahead until the fourth quarter and put panic into the No. 3 Indians.
Marion Center senior Chantel Glasser scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half despite being targeted from the get-go.
“She was doing a great job out there, and I’m sure they were trying to shut her down like we were trying to shut them down inside,” Brocious said. “But they played some good defense, and they were a good team.”
“We said ‘no right hand,’” Juniata coach Meghan Geedy said of Glasser. “That’s what we tried to do in the first half, but give her credit, when she gets around the basket, she finishes. We tried to take away that right-hand (shot) in the second half.”
The Stingers held a 26-21 advantage at the break, but didn’t stay composed late in the game. They started forcing passes, taking bad shots and turning the ball over, allowing the Indians to take control. Juniata went on a 13-2 run that spanned most of the fourth quarter and ultimately put Marion Center away.
“Right off the bat in the second half, we had three turnovers, and they turned them into points,” Brocious said. “I’m not really sure what happened, but we came out a whole different team in the second half. We didn’t execute, we didn’t rebound well, and we just weren’t playing our kind of basketball. We just didn’t bring our A-game tonight. Well, at least in the second half.”
“We got a lot of good passes inside in the first half, and we moved the ball well,” Glasser said. “We were executing our plays, and for a while there, I was the one that was open.
“In the second half, I do think we were rushing our plays a little. We weren’t setting good screens and didn’t execute like we usually do.”
Glasser posted a double-double with 10 rebounds, and Hanna Beer added 11 points and seven rebounds. Their biggest task of the night was shutting down Juniata forward Joelle Winey, who scored six of the Indians’ first eight points.
“We didn’t think they had anybody to stop Joelle Winey, and the game plan was to feed her,” Geedy said. “We fed her the ball, and they had to go to the zone (defense). We knew we could score against the zone. The first half, we didn’t shoot as well, but we kept ourselves in the game until the second half when we came out and hit some shots.”
Marion Center has been sticking to the man-to-man defense, but switched to the zone early to slow down Juniata’s inside game. Winey didn’t score again until the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points. Maddie Zendt and Carly Burns led the Indians with 14 points apiece.
“When we went to the zone, we did take away some of their inside, but we were a little slow getting out on the ball,” Brocious said. “They did a good job rotating the ball. We came out a little flat. We got away from running our offense and got away from doing the things that got us to this point, and good defense was one of them.”
The Stingers will have to get back to those things if they want to take out Blairsville, the defending district champion that hasn’t lost a Heritage Conference game in more than two years. The Bobcats beat the Stingers twice this season, including a thrilling one-point victory in the regular-season finale.
Marion Center already avenged one of its regular-season losses when it topped No. 2 Westmont on Friday.
“I’m definitely glad the season’s not over,” Glasser said. “We have a chance to come back and prove that tonight was an off-night. When we lost the last game to Blairsville, we said that we’re going to come back in the playoffs and give it our all.”
“We were really excited coming off our win against Westmont, and we wanted to come out strong,” said Marion Center’s Jenny Irvin, who added eight points. “We did, but then we started trying to make things happen instead of letting them happen. We’re really looking to come back out Friday night to show everyone that we should’ve won this game.”