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Juniata earns bruising win as it heads to title tilt

MIFFLINTOWN -In a moment resembling the return of the Knicks Willis Reed’s heroic return immediately after an injury, Juniata point guard Josie Swartz miraculously returned to the court after suffering what looked like a serious knee injury to help her team fend off a feisty Lancaster Country Day Tuesday night in the semi-finals of the Tri-Valley League.
Swartz night was a huge one as she became not only the All-time leading girls scorer but the all-time school leading scorer with her 22-point effort.
But it was the whole team that earned the victory as they took care of the Lady Cougars 55-45.
Swartz was helped offensively by Ellie Shepps with nine and Olivia Clark with eight. Clark also pulled down 10 rebounds in the victory.
LCD was led by the inside presence of center Ashanti Duncan. Duncan looked unstoppable early on and finished with 19. Teammate Kayla Stankiewicz had things going from the outside and off the dribble, posting 13.
After holding a lead for most of the game, the Indians momentum took a strong hit when Swartz went down to ground after battling for a rebound and Duncan fell on her knee. When the trainers got her, Swartz had to be helped off the court by her trainer and coach Kevin Kodish. This was just minutes after moving her way into first place in both the All-time girls scoring list and the All-time Juniata scoring list.
Despite the absence of their floor leader, the Indians rallied behind their fallen leader and managed to keep the lead as the teams went into the final stanza.
Holding a slim 39-36 advantage, Juniata was able to continue its hold on the lead despite the Cougars nipping at their heels.
Clark, Chloe Zendt and Janelle Swartz kept the game going in the Juniata side. The team also stepped up its defensive game as well, closing the lanes and making it harder on Duncan and Stankiewicz.
The group was able to maintain a 4-point lead as the game dropped below the five minute mark.
With 4:44 left, Swartz surprisingly reported back in and went right back to work. In the small amount of time she was in she went a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe and a field goal to help lead her team to a championship game on Thursday against Upper Dauphin, who earlier defeated Greenwood.
When the buzzer sounded, the Indians celebrated the win, the return of their captain and her scoring accomplishments.
Defensively, the combination of Clark, Shepps and Janelle Swartz proved to be too much for Duncan.

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