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Loyalsock can’t find knockout blow in semifinal loss

SUNBURY — So many times, Loyalsock put Mifflinburg against the ropes and a Heartland Athletic Conference semifinal knockout appeared inevitable.

But that finishing blow never came. And, ultimately, Riley Griffith was the one who knocked out the defending champions.

Loyalsock squandered a series of expanding leads, including a five-point overtime advantage when three Mifflinburg starters fouled out. But Griffith willed Mifflinburg back, scored 33 points and helped the Wildcats edge Loyalsock, 57-54. Griffith went on a personal 8-2 overtime run and Hayley Yoder hit the go-ahead basket with 45 seconds remaining as Mifflinburg (19-4) earned a spot in Friday’s final against Danville while giving Loyalsock (20-3) its first District 4 loss this season.

“They have three starters out and we kept fouling Griffith and she kept hitting free throws. We didn’t have that killer instinct,” Loyalsock coach Curtis Jacobson said. “We got seven and five-point leads and never could get over the hump and make that play or hit that shot and in big games that’s what you need to do.”

Loyalsock led by as many as eight in the first quarter and seven in the second. It also was up four with 1 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in regulation but needed two missed free throws at the 10-second mark to have a shot at overtime.

Sarah Van Fleet grabbed the rebound and found Maddie Fox who sprinted up the right sideline, cut toward the middle and hit an up and under shot that tied it at 45 and gave Loyalsock all the momentum entering overtime.

The Lancers scored five quick points and went up 50-45 a minute into overtime. Libby Whitaker (19 rebounds) and Angela Reamer both fouled out and it looked like Loyalsock had victory in its grasp.

And then it slipped away. Griffith made four straight foul shots and her steal and layup put Mifflinburg up 53-52. Summer McNulty (12 points) answered with two foul shots, but Yoder’s jumper made it 55-54.

Loyalsock worked for what it hoped would be the last shot, but turned the ball over on a traveling violation with 6.8 seconds remaining. Brooke Catherman, who had entered just a minute earlier, than scored off a layup, but missed the ensuing free throw with 3.3 seconds remaining. Loyalsock had a look at a buzzer-beating 3-pointer but passed on it and time expired.

“I had a lot of people on the floor that, to me, didn’t want the ball,” Jacobson said. “We haven’t been in a ton of close games so it’s hard to show all that stuff because you have to be in those moments, so hopefully we learn from it.”

Fox scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds while Sam Stopper had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. Van Fleet was outstanding in the second half, pulling down 10 of her 12 rebounds and delivering some key assists.

Still, Loyalsock’s overall game was more defined by uncharacteristic mistakes and sloppy play. Montoursville experienced a similar scenario two years ago when it was shocked in the HAC semifinals. That 21-win team rallied to win districts and Loyalsock is hoping it can make a similar rebound.

“I told them the best part about this game is the talk is not as difficult because we still have districts to look forward to,” Jacobson said. “At the end of the day, the PHAC Championship was one of our goals but to me it’s more about that district championship. This doesn’t impact that and you hope they learn from it, but I’m kind of at a loss right now.”

Mifflinburg 57, Loyalsock 54, OT

MIFFLINBURG (57)

Riley Griffith 10 10-13 33, Reagan Griffith 1 0-0 3, Libby Whitaker 3 4-7 10, Angela Reamer 0 3-6 3, Hayley Yoder 1 0-0 2, Mollie Bomgardner 1 0-2 2, Mara Shuck 1 0-0 2, Brooke Catherman 1 0-1 2. Totals 18 17-29 57.

LOYALSOCK (54)

Maddie Fox 5 2-5 14, Summer McNulty 3 6-6 12, Sam Stopper 2 4-4 10, Sarah Van Fleet 3 0-0 6, Juliana Cruz 2 2-4 7, Cassie Gee 2 0-0 5, Anna Burdett 0 0-2 0. Totals 17 14-21 54.

Mifflinburg 10 13 7 15 12-57

Loyalsock 14 10 9 12 9-54

3-pointers: Mifflinburg 4 (Ri. Griffith 3, Re. Griffith); Loyalsock 6 (Fox 2, Stopper 2, Cruz, Gee).

Records: Mifflinburg (19-4); Loyalsock (20-3).

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