HERSHEY — Despite leading for almost the entire first 26 minutes of the game, the Kennard-Dale girls’ basketball team couldn’t hold on in the PIAA Class 4-A second round.
K-D led by four at halftime and by six midway through the third quarter, but Mifflinburg’s backcourt of Riley Griffith and Angela Reamer scored 33 total points and made several key plays in the fourth quarter in the Rams’ 51-45 loss on Wednesday.
“Mifflinburg did a lot of little things well tonight that we didn’t necessarily do,” said first-year K-D head coach Aaron Eaton. “We battled until the end. When you get to this point in the season, it’s going to come down to one or two little things that happen over the course of the game. They probably played a little tougher than us tonight, and kudos to them.”
The loss ends a historic season for K-D. The Rams (23-5) finished the season tied for the best record in program history with the 2001-02 team and made it to the second round of the state playoffs for the second straight season.
Eaton said he thanked the senior class, which consists of Megan Halczuk, Megan Thomas, Dalin Haleem, Lily Dressell and Kayla Huber, for setting the “culture” at K-D.
“This isn’t something that’s going to be one year and done,” Eaton said. “It’s about setting that culture for years to come. We may not be a state team every year, but the bond and the camaraderie is really special.”
Sharp shooting: The Rams came out of the gate hot at Milton Hershey School. They led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter. Thirteen of their 17 points came off jump shots, nine of which came on 3-pointers from Thomas (two) and Halczuk. The two guards combined for 17 points.
“Those two played their hearts out tonight,” Eaton said. “We expected that from them.”
K-D led by four at halftime and by six midway through the third quarter, but Mifflinburg went on a run at the end of the period to tie the game at 39.
Junior forward Lexie Kopko prevented the Wildcats from taking the lead with a nine-point third period. She led the Rams with 13 points.
Rams lose lead, can’t complete comeback: Mifflinburg (25-4), which earned a state berth as the District 4 champion, took the lead with about six minutes remaining. It was its first lead since early in the first quarter.
Three free throws from Halczuk put the Rams down 43-42, but Mifflinburg kept the lead and increased it to five points with about 45 seconds remaining.
Chandler Swanson made a 3-pointer to put K-D down two points, and the Rams then stole the inbounds pass to gain possession with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.
Jaedyn McKeon, who finished the game with 12 points, attempted a layup down low but couldn’t get the shot to fall after contact from two Wildcat defenders.
“I thought we’d either get a layup or a foul out of it,” Eaton said. “That was a great steal. She was there, and they converged. Maybe she got bumped. Those two points would’ve tied it.”
The Wildcats made all six of their free throws in the final period to hold on for the victory. Griffith, who led the Wildcats with 20 points, made all four of her free throw attempts in the period.
K-D made only one field goal in the final period.
“I think their defense in the fourth quarter, they spent a lot more time in the lane,” Eaton said. “We were getting to the rim, but there were two or three people we were meeting there. We spread it out in the first half. … I think their defense got better as the game went on. That was the difference in the fourth quarter.”
Community support: Eaton said he is thankful for the community’s support all season. He said the Rams had a consistent fan base all season that packed their home gym and traveled to away games.
“The support we’ve had all year is pretty cool,” Eaton said. “Our community is special. They love rallying around kids and championship teams. They love to see kids play hard and play the right way.”
Archbishop Carroll 42, Gettysburg 31: At New Holland, the Warriors gave one of the state’s powerhouse programs a stern test before falling in a PIAA Class 5-A second-round game at Garden Spot High School in Lancaster County.
Carroll came into the game ranked No. 1 in the state in 5-A according PennLive.com, but Gettysburg trailed just 31-29 in the fourth quarter before Carroll pulled away at the end.
Gettysburg, the District 3 runner-up, finished at 23-7. Carroll, the District 12 champion, improved to 23-5.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.