By Gib Snyder III
FREDONIA - The Pine Valley Lady Panthers (16-2) avenged one of their two losses on Friday night as they squeaked past Fredonia, 58-51, during non-league girls basketball action.
"This group is a mature group," Pine Valley coach Tim Nobles said. "We have five seniors, but the juniors have been playing for two years on the team and they're smart and they're coachable. Sometimes they get a little hats-and-horns, but when you tell them to settle down, they slow down and they look at things and I thought they did a really nice job at the end."
With the game tied 46-all with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers utilized a 12-5 scoring run to put the game away as they connected on six of their final eight foul shots.
"I thought we were poised, because we hadn't been in this situation before," Nobles said. "We were down when we played Fredonia (the first time) and we were down when we played Chautauqua Lake. We had not been in a situation where we had a lead and had to work to keep it, so that was good."
Kayla Mansfield had eight of her game-high 18 points over the final eight minutes and collected a game-high 13 rebounds to go with four assists to help the Lady Panthers to the win.
"She often times has a double-double," Nobles said. "She's averaging like 12 points a game and 10 rebounds a game, and that's kind of what we expect. She has her ups and downs, but she is our leader. We look to her for everything."
Unlike Pine Valley, Fredonia was unable to connect from the charity stripe and it ended up being the difference in the game as the Lady Hillbillies finished 0-for-8 in the fourth quarter.
"Our foul shooting was atrocious," Zirkle said. "We missed eight foul shots in the fourth quarter and we lost by seven. We just didn't do the job from the foul line."
The Lady Hillbillies weren't too much better from the field as they were unable to solve the Lady Panthers' defense over the final four minutes, which saw them score just two field goals.
"They're a very good team," Zirkle said. "They're very athletic, they switch the defenses up and I think they're going to have a great playoff run. This was a great game for both teams."
"It was basic basketball," Nobles added of his team's play in the fourth quarter. "Stay between the person and the basket and get your hands up, don't foul them and rebound."
The game was back-and-forth for the first 28 minutes, with each team able to answer anything the other was able to do.
"This was, I thought, a very competitive game," Zirkle said. "I think that both teams are going to benefit from it in the playoffs and I think we're going to be stronger because of it."
The Lady Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, before the Lady Hillbillies stormed back with a 16-2 run that helped them take a 16-9 lead. Then, a 3-pointer by Kaleigh Brunswick with 1:18 left in the first jump started a 14-1 run that put the Lady Panthers up 23-17 with just over five minutes remaining before the break.
"Is it something I want to see the other team do? No," Zirkle said of opponents getting off on long scoring runs. "Do we need to learn to step up and stop them? Yes. But we could have folded at any point during those (runs) and I thought that we kept battling and I thought we battled until the final buzzer."
Fredonia battled back, but Pine Valley took a 27-26 lead into halftime. In the third, the Lady Hillbillies were able to build a 36-30 lead. However, the Lady Panthers were able to answer, as they put together an 11-2 run that was highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by Jessie Wilcox and Alex Bentham, which put Pine Valley up 39-38 with 1:25 left in the quarter.
"I don't think there was any quit in either team," Nobles said.
A bucket by Brunswick put Pine Valley up three, 41-38, but Hannah Cybart answered with a basket of her own to cut the lead to one, 41-40, as the teams headed into the final quarter.
"It was just a game of runs and I think both teams did a good job on their runs," Zirkle said.
Playing in their final regular-season home game for the Lady Hillbillies were Frankie Sysol and Alicia Deering.
"You hate to have them lose," Zirkle said. "But I feel confident that we're going to have a home playoff game next week and I think they'll have the opportunity to win on their home court then."
NOTES: Jamie Wilcox had nine points and 10 rebounds in the win while Bentham, Brunswick and Hoth all added eight points. ... Morgan Genovese led the Lady Hillbillies with 17 points, Cybart chipped in 13 and Abram had eight points.