By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Shamokin’s defense was overwhelming at times Wednesday, the kind of all-out relentless that fosters nightmares.
It’s a good thing for Danville their girls don’t scare easily.
The Ironmen erased a seven-point deficit after three quarters and survived giving up a three-point lead in the final half-minute of regulation. They surged to a hard-fought 47-43 overtime win in a battle for first place in Heartland-I.
“I thought we played very well at times,” said Shamokin coach Bill Callahan. “Physically, I thought we controlled the game and did a nice job. I just thought we had a lot of mental lapses that hurt us.
“Give Danville all the credit. They wanted it and they got it.”
Paige Harris had two of her eight steals on the Indians’ first possessions of overtime to spark a 6-0 Danville run, the decisive momentum swing in a game riddled with them.
“It was just go all-out, defend (and) try to get in their heads, get them flustered,” Harris said.
With their sixth consecutive win, the Ironmen improved to 12-1 overall and 5-1 in HAC-I, which is slightly ahead of Shamokin (6-7, 4-1) in the division.
“(The Indians are) physically strong,” said Danville coach Steve Moser. “They bring scrap, they bring hustle ... they just bring heart all game long. Third quarter we didn’t want any part of it.”
Danville led 19-15 at halftime after Sara Naessig picked up a loose ball and drained a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to answer a go-ahead trey by Shamokin’s Sara Popewczak. They were only made threes in the game; all the other points were much-harder come by.
In fact, Danville went 0-for-9 from the field in the third quarter, shooting mostly perimeter shots while practically ceding the middle to the Indians, who blocked 10 shots (seven by sophomore Gabriann Lahr, three by senior Catie Pancher).
“Lahr played phenomenal defense,” said Moser. “She altered shots, blocked shots ... I bet she saved them 20 points.”
The Indians were 5-for-8 shooting in the third with Liv Bonshock scoring half of her team-high 14 points. She also had a game-high 11 rebounds. Shamokin led 29-22 at period’s end, but Danville erased that in 100 seconds of game time with consecutive buckets from Ali Berg, Naessig and Amber Renz (3-point play).
“The first and third quarters we pounded the ball inside and scored at will,” said Callahan. “Then, all of a sudden, we started trying to shoot threes instead of staying patient and going inside.”
In a span of 2 minutes late in the fourth, Danville made three consecutive steals (two by Ericka Heath) and Heath scored on the other end each time for a 39-34 edge. She finished with 12 points, four steals, three boards and a block.
“I thought Ericka Heath played her best game of the year,” said Moser, “maybe one of the best all-around since I’ve been coaching her.”
The Indians forced overtime with a Pancher putback, two free throws from Popewczak, and one of two fouls from Shaylee Pesarchick with eight seconds to play. Pancher and Lahr then teamed to reject Amber Renz’s last-second drive to the basket.
“The way they fought the last minute, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” said Callahan.
Renz finished with 14 points (nine fewer than her average), but pulled nine boards, blocked two shots and iced the game (47-41) with a pair of fouls with 17 seconds to play.