Lycoming's regular season finale against Hood helped further establish Olivia Manges as one the emerging pieces of a talented young roster.
Manges kept her current run of 10 or more points per game going with a 20-point effort in Lycoming's final tune-up before entering the Commonwealth Conference playoffs. The Warriors open their postseason tonight with a 7 p.m. tip-off against No. 4 Elizabethtown.
Manges' season-high wasn't enough to spoil Hood's senior day game, as the Blazers ended a rough season on a high with a 52-49 win.
Although Manges and the Warriors would have preferred a win to close out the season, the loss did little to effect their playoff prospects.
A 49-39 win over visiting Albright in last Tuesday's home finale assured the Warriors of the final postseason berth.
"You're not going to win games missing shots you should put in," Lycoming coach Christen Ditzler said. "It was just one of those days. Fortunately it wasn't a playoff death."
With the loss behind them, the No. 5 Warriors head to Thompson Gymnasium with a Wednesday trip to No. 1 Messiah on the line.
The Warriors' quick turnaround, which helped secure their first playoff appearance since 2000, has been aided by the play of young players like Manges, who tallied 137 points over the last 11 games.
The tear started with a 20-point performance in a 57-55 overtime win at Stevenson. And along with setting her freshman year high water mark, Manges helped close out the victory with the final two points.
Stevenson continued to be a good matchup for Manges, who scored 18 points in the teams' second meeting, a 63-47 win to help Lycoming snap a two-game losing steak.
The win was critical in Warriors' final push for the postseason, as they went on to win five of their next nine games.
After her initial outburst against Stevenson, Manges scored 16 points over the next three games and helped Lycoming pickup two more wins.
"The way we run the ball up the court really helps me get a lot of my points," Manges said. "(Rachael Scheller) is a fantastic point guard and knows how to move the ball. I'm really just finishing what she does to get the ball up the court."
In Lycoming's must-win contest against Albright, Manges scored 12 points and gave the Warriors 34 quality minutes. Lycoming went on to defeat Albright, 49-39, and lock up the fifth seed in the playoffs.
"It would mean the world to us, especially the two seniors," Manges said of making the playoffs. "We've been working really hard and coming together as a team."
In Lycoming's final regular season contest against Hood, Manges opened the game with the first five points for the Warriors. She then connected on a 3 to help end a Hood run midway through the first half.
Along with her ability to create offense, Manges has been a much more vocal player as her comfort within the offense has increased. The once soft-spoken freshman can now be seen leading the the team on the court and offering advice when needed.
"As a freshman you come in nervous, but now I'm used to the girls. I know how everyone plays on the court," Manges said. "As the games have been going on I've just been getting more comfortable with myself as a player and with the team."
In Lycoming's final tune-up prior to entering the Commonwealth Conference playoffs, Manges matched her career-high of 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Warriors in Saturday's game. She was also on the floor in the game's final minutes as Lycoming fought to play spoiler on Hood's senior day.
"I have a lot of faith in Olivia Manges," Ditzler said. "She's a player. She's come on strong. It's not about how you start it's about how you finish, and she's a prime example of that."
Both teams fought through multiple lead changes and ties in the second half. Manges knotted the score at 30 apiece with one of her two treys. She then keyed a 6-0 run with four consecutive points to give Lycoming a 40-34 lead.
"She's one of the kids we have that can finish a break so well," Ditzler said.
Lycoming failed to hold the lead, with defensive breakdowns helping Hood outscore Lycoming 15-8 over the final seven minutes. Emily Maerz hit the game's decisive shot with 46.3 seconds left to give Hood a 49-48 lead and force Lycoming into fouling.
"I have to revisit what we did in practice and come up with a better gameplan for (today)," Ditzler said. "The one good thing is we took a lot of shots. It's a good thing. It means we took a lot of shots. Now, we just need to start finishing them."
If anything, falling short at Hood could help the battled-test Lycoming women. Both regular season games against Hood came down to late-game situations.
The first contest was defined by a late defensive stand in which Lycoming blanked Elizabethtown on its final eight possessions to clinch a 70-62 win. In the next game, Lycoming overcame a 15-point deficit at halftime, later falling short when Kendra Beittel completed a 19-point performance with the game's final two free throws.
Julia Antonelli led the Warriors offensively in both games, scoring a combined 35 points. She was a major factor on the boards, pulling down 11 and 12 rebounds, respectively.
"Fortunately we took care of business last Tuesday (against Albright)," Ditzler said after Saturday's game at Hood. "On the other hand, we certainly needed to win this game. We need to make shots. If we can make shots, we're going to win some basketball games."