By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- There was a point in Friday's game between the Warrior Run and Mifflinburg girls when the Heartland crossover had a decent chance to be the game it figured to be -- despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.
It was three minutes into the second quarter. The Defenders hadn't yet scored in the period and a mini-run by Mifflinburg cut a big early deficit to four. The Wildcats had committed 19 turnovers by that juncture, and any improvement promised to keep the score tight.
However, in a matter of minutes, Mifflinburg standout Sara Stauffer went to the bench with her third foul, Chloe Eisenhuth sparked a Warrior Run spurt and the momentum continued to build toward a double-digit halftime lead. The Defenders pushed the margin past 20 late in the third quarter and eventually doubled-up the 'Cats with an impressive 62-31 win.
"It was getting really tight, and we knew we had to get the ball moving fast," said Eisenhuth, a junior point guard. "We understood that, in order to get the separation, we needed a streak and we needed to carry our momentum on."
Warrior Run junior Steph Shamburg scored 28 points (14 in each half) and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. She made all 12 of her foul shots. Tay Parker added 12 points, nine in the first quarter, as the Defenders (3-0) raced to a 15-6 lead. She also had six steals.
Warrior Run went to a full-court press when trailing 4-3 about three minutes in. The pressure forced a trio of turnovers that led to three consecutive baskets and a 9-4 lead. The Wildcats (1-2) gave away the ball on eight of nine possessions in that stretch and went 4 1/2 minutes without scoring.
"They pressed us hard," said Mifflinburg coach Kelly Griffith. "I thought we played very good defense in the first half. They played good defense, too. They were tough."
Wildcats freshman Kayla Kline scored four points off the bench to get it to 15-11, but Stauffer (who scored a team-high 14 points) went to the bench with her third foul with 4:23 left in the half.
Warrior Run pounced on the advantage immediately. Eisenhuth assisted Shamburg on consecutive trips down the floor and then hit a jumper of her own for a 23-12 lead.
"We were finally moving the ball well and getting momentum. I felt we had to do quicker passes and I could look to Steph for that," Eisenhuth said. "We're not a team that's slowly getting into things. When we're running faster, we tend to get better passes."
Mifflinburg shot the ball better than Warrior Run in the first half (31 percent to 26), but the Wildcats had twice as many turnovers (27-14) and trailed 27-15 at the half.
"We let it go to 12, but we were still in the game," said Griffith. "In the second half their shots were going down and we struggled with the turnovers. We had some good shots, they just weren't falling."
Shamburg had 10 points in the third quarter, while Abby Fisher added five and Warrior Run upped the lead to 44-23.
"(At halftime) I said, 'We are not going to shoot from the outside until they stop us on the inside.' We got the ball in the paint, and Steph responded," said Defenders coach Jon Weaver. "The difference was we got a bunch of turnovers and didn't convert them at the other end. In the second half, we were able to turn them into buckets."