By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- Danville's Amber Renz filled the stat sheet offensively Wednesday night, but perhaps her biggest contribution came on a shot attempt that did not fall.
Renz blocked a runner by Julia McArdle-Coe, sending the ball off the back wall at the Whitey McCloskey Center with one minute remaining and Mifflinburg closing in.
After the emphatic rejection, the Wildcats did not score in the final minute as Danville held on for a 42-36 win.
"Amber Renz did a phenomenal job defensively," Danville coach Steve Moser said.
Renz blocked nine shots, while adding five steals.
"Using my blocks to help my team is the one thing I can do and I'll do it every game," Renz said.
Despite the disruptions at both ends by Renz, Mifflinburg was able to keep the game close with Kayla Kline fearlessly driving into the lane.
"Mifflinburg's a good club," Moser said. "They're aggressive. They make you do things you don't want to do."
Mifflinburg failed to convert off the inbounds play following Renz swatting away any momentum the Wildcats may have had, a missed opportunity that loomed large with seconds left on the clock.
Forced to foul, the Wildcats sent Sara Naessing to the line for two free throws with 30 seconds to play. With no hint of nerves, Naessing toed the line and drained both attempts for the final margin.
Following the lead of their standout sophomore, the Danville defense collapsed on Mifflinburg in the lane as the Wildcats tried to score quickly.
Before Renz used an outstretched hand in crunch time to deny the Wildcats in close, she poured in a game-high 22 points, with the Ironmen consistently getting the ball in the hands of their play-making sophomore. Regardless of whether she was hoisting a shot from long range or laying one off the glass on a break, Renz was able to score and create for her teammates.
After a missed Mifflinburg free throw with the Ironmen up 38-35, Renz pulled down the rebound and started a possession that ended with an Ericka Heath layup.
Perhaps no one benefitted more from the attention paid to Renz than Heath. With Renz wreaking havoc at both ends, the Ironmen were able to work the ball around to Heath, who finished with 14 points. Many of her shots came from standing her ground in the low post and grabbing rebounds.
Heath and Renz alternated points for much of the fourth quarter, going toe-to-toe with Kline and McArdle-Coe as Mifflinburg tried to make a run.
Mifflinburg coach Kelly Griffith said that she was pleased with the way her team battled.
"They played a really good game," Griffith said. "I'm very proud of them."
Kline cleaned up a miss around the net, converting on a layup with five minutes left, and McArdle-Coe knocked down a turnaround jumper on the Wildcats' next possession to trim the deficit to four. After a scoreless stretch, McArdle-Coe hit a free throw to pull the Wildcats within three but Mifflinburg could not trim the lead further.
Renz hit a pair of free throws with two minutes left to push Danville's lead back to five before McArdle-Coe answered off a pass from Kline.
With Kline starting to make a difference as the game progressed, Moser changed his defensive set, helping to stop the Wildcat sophomore. Moser praised the play of Paige Harris and Zina Knight in helping to shut down Kline as the pair of Ironmen guards prevented Kline from having easy looks at the rim.
The first half was largely a battle between Renz and Kline as the sophomores each led their respective squads in scoring, trading buckets throughout the first two quarters. Mifflinburg held a slim 20-18 advantage at the break.