By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Line Mountain coach Mike Reed was pleasantly surprised to discover Colleen Troutman pulled 18 rebounds Saturday.
“I knew she had quite few,” he said, glancing at his stat sheet, “but I didn’t know it was that many.”
It was Troutman’s kind of effort, though, that the Eagles had to have to win a game like the Tri-Valley League matchup with East Juniata.
After all, they committed 11 first-quarter turnovers, gave up lots of points in the paint and trailed by seven midway through the third quarter.
Freshman Joelle Snyder scored on a strong drive to the basket, and Madison Lagerman made three of four free throws as Line Mountain grabbed a late lead.
East Juniata missed four shots in the final 31 seconds — one blocked by Lagerman underneath — as the Eagles won the game postponed three weeks, 61-60.
Line Mountain improved to 7-8 overall (7-4 TVL) with its fourth consecutive win, and must win four of its last seven to qualify for the District 4 Class AA playoffs. The degree of difficulty is fairly high, however, with the three teams ahead of the Eagles in the TVL race (Juniata, Halifax, Greenwood), the return game at East Juniata, and non-league runs with Mifflinburg and Williams Valley still to play.
“Even if this wasn’t a game we would have to win to get into districts, I still think it is a game that was really important to win,” said Troutman.
Which is to say, if Saturday’s game wasn’t a “must-win” for the Eagles, it was a close as one gets.
The Tigers (8-5, 6-5), who had a five-game win streak snapped Friday, have an easier path the Class A field, needing just three more wins. They’ll certainly hope Saturday’s loss doesn’t come back to haunt them.
Maddie Trego scored 29 points — 14 in the first quarter — and Megan Graybill added 15, including three 3-pointers. Neither girl got their hands on the ball in the game-ending sequence of possessions until Graybill’s 3-point try off an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds left.
It was remarkable there was any late-game drama, given the Eagles’ poor start. They wilted in the face of East Juniata’s full-court zone pressure, falling behind 14-6 with 10 turnovers in the game’s first 6 minutes.
Line Mountain closed the opening period with a stunning 13-6 run, including five points in the final 10 seconds. Snyder made a steal and jumper, and Caitlin Scott followed with a steal that led to a three-point play and a 20-19 score.
A similar run ended the half, as the Eagles got a bucket from Madeline Reed and a buzzer-beating Troutman putback to get within 35-34 despite 22 turnovers.
“We had couple spurts that were like daggers,” said Reed. “We had a lot of trouble with their press in the first half, but when we did break it we were able to get layups. I told them at halftime, ’Their press is what has them in the lead, but their press is also the reason we’re only one point down.’ We broke (the press) a couple times, then they took it off, and we had a chance to settle down a bit.”
Trego built on her 18-point, eight-rebound half with eight more points in the third quarter as East Juniata went up 48-41 and threatened to put away the Eagles.
Instead, Troutman responded with nine of her 22 points in the period — seven in the latter four minutes — to keep Line Mountain afloat at 52-49.
“We’re a team that doesn’t give up,” she said. “We always try to fight back and keep playing hard. We were helping each other get our heads up, and we started getting those few plays that went our way. I think that really helped us to get the momentum back.”
Troutman left the game following a collision under the basket with 4:36 to play. The injury happened after Trego broke a 55-all tie with a bucket underneath, but that was her last basket of the game.
The senior center’s shots dwindled from 13 in the first half to eight in the second (three in the fourth quarter).
“Our inside people did a pretty good job of getting in front of her and tipping away passes,” said Troutman. “Our outside people, as well, got pressure on the ball so they couldn’t get a straightaway pass to her.”
The Tigers missed 16 of 19 shots in the fourth, including their last eight in the final minute. Every Line Mountain starter scored at least five points, and Scott had six off the bench.
“We kept fighting, and I’m proud of them for that,” said Reed. “We were wearing down a little bit, but we fought through it.”