ALLPORT — The Philipsburg-Osceola girls basketball team went 9-of-11 from the free throw line in the first half on Tuesday night against rival West Branch.
And those foul shots were the key in the team’s 44-39 victory over the Lady Warriors.
“It’s always fun when Philipsburg plays West Branch,” said Lady Mountie head coach Brandon Myers. “I tried to tell the girls that West Branch is young and pesky. This is the best we have played in a while.
“Both teams played hard until the end. It was our foul shooting I think that ultimately put us ahead. We’ve been working so hard all year on foul shots and it’s nice to see them put it all out there.”
P-O went up 12-3 to start the game, as Kyleigh Kennedy scored six points, including 2-for-2 from the line. Kennedy finished the night 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. She led all scorers with 17 points and 12 boards.
“Kyleigh is such a fun athlete,” said Myers. “She is our rock. We come and we go with her. She had her head in the game and she played hard. She played a gritty almost 32 minutes for us. She really sets the tone.”
West Branch cut the lead to 12-8 late in the first quarter, as Tory Kalke and Ashley Mertz each drained treys.
The Lady Mounties’ Reagan Thorp got fouled and made both of her foul shots to give P-O a 14-8 advantage after one.
“We didn’t make anything easy,” said Lady Warriors head coach Justin Koleno. “P-O earned it in the way of foul shots tonight. They had a good foul shooting game and that was the difference for them.
“If they don’t do that early on, their second quarter would look pretty bleak.”
Philipsburg-Osceola continued to drain shots in the second quarter, extending its lead to 18-8 after Kennedy and Samantha Bainey went 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
West Branch closed out the frame on a 7-3 run, as the Lady Mounties led 21-15 at the half.
“She was what we worried about,” said Koleno of Kennedy. “We’ve been struggling a little on the boards as is and we knew that she was going to be a bull underneath.
“I think she did dominate on the boards. A lot of her boards are crashing offensive boards and they turn into points.”
The Lady Warriors pulled to within 27-25 late in the third quarter, as Kalke had a three and a putback basket. She finished the game with four treys and 16 points, as well as six rebounds.
P-O finished off the frame with Kennedy hitting two free throws and a Lindsey Bordas bucket to make it 31-25.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth battle with P-O holding a slight 14-13 edge in the frame.
West Branch closed it to 38-34 midway through the fourth after a big three by Sarah Betts. The Lady Warriors got as close as 38-37 when Kalke drained her fourth three of the night with 1:37 remaining.
“That was a testament to those girls,” Koleno said. “They kept grinding. We got it down to four and then one late in the fourth quarter. They are a gritty bunch. They are learning the game. We have two or three freshmen out there at anytime and having the experience of being in these close games is invaluable.”
Kennedy pulled through for P-O, getting a bucket to make it 40-37.
Thorp was fouled with 1:08 remaining after a turnover and hit both of her foul shots to make it 42-35.
West Branch got the ball back, but turned it over again. This time Sam Bainey was the beneficiary with 39.7 left. She knocked down one of her free throws to make it 43-37.
Kennedy was fouled one last time with 13 seconds remaining. She hit one of those, setting the final at 44-39.
“We try to tell the girls that while our offense has its scorers, if you have a shot where you are comfortable on the floor, it doesn’t matter if you shoot,” said Myers. “It’s nice to see them getting better on the court.”
Bainey finished the game with 15 points and five rebounds. Thorp added eight points and nine rebounds.
Sarah Betts and Ashley Mertz each had seven points for the Lady Warriors. Betts added eight rebounds, while Mertz had five.
“I’m starting to learn the P-O/West Branch rivalry more,” Koleno said. “You can tell because losses against these rivals hurt a little bit more. But, today, the story was us digging a hole we couldn’t dig ourselves out of this time.
“We kind of dodged a couple of bullets early in the season, winning those close games where we aren’t playing so well in the first half. This time, we just weren’t able to overcome that.”
West Branch fell to 5-9 overall. The Lady Warriors travel to Claysburg-Kimmel on Friday.
Philipsburg-Osceola improved to 3-12 overall. The Lady Mounties host Bellefonte on Thursday.
Bainey 4 7-11 15, Bordas 1 0-1 2, Kennedy 5 7-8 17, Thorp 2 4-5 8, Potter 1 0-1 2, Reed 0 0-2 0, Pinto 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 18-28 44.
West Branch— 39
S. Betts 3 0-0 7, Mertz 3 0-0 7, H. Betts 0 0-0 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, Cantolina 1 0-0 2, Kalke 6 0-0 16, Parks 0 0-0 0, Smeal 0 0-3 0, McGonigal 3 0-0 7. Totals: 16 0-3 39.
Three-pointers: Kalke 4, S. Betts, Mertz, McGonigal.
Score by Quarters
P-O 14 7 10 13— 44
West Branch 8 7 10 14— 39