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Juniata Mennonite inches closes to post season berth

PORT ROYAL – With its win over visiting Walnut Christian Friday night, the Juniata Mennonite girls basketball team the Juniata Mennonite girls basketball team clinched at least a tie for the third place in the ACAA’s with three games left to play in its season.

In the process, the Lions rallied from an 11-4 first quarter deficit to defeat the Warriors 42-36 at the Cedar Grove Gym in front of its faithful home crowd. Leading the way for JMS was Alexis Hahn-Kline that blazed the way with a  game-high 18-point effort.

Teammate Lauren Breon complimented Hahn-Kline’s effort with a 12-poinjt effort of her own. The Warriors were led in scoring by Emily Howell and Joy Trumbull who finished with a 14-point and 10-point effort, respectively. Early on, the shots weren’t falling for the Lions despite the tough defensive play.

JMS troubles continued early in the second when it found itself trailing,15-6.

With the game getting out of sorts, Juniata Mennonite coach Andy Meiser called a time out to change the strategy on defense.

“I think the real key to the game tonight was going to a man-to-man defense,” Meiser said. “I knew their ball handling was a little weak so we went after them. Then we started to hit again and started to open the game up a little bit and I think that was key to the game.” After the time out, the Lions got the ball to long distance threat Valarie Meiser. Meiser did not disappoint as she sent a triple from beyond the arc, cutting it to 15-9. From there, the fast breaking opportunistic play of the Lions came to the forefront, going on a stunning 8-0 run from there, taking its first lead since early in the first, 17-15 with 52 ticks left in the half.

The Warriors’ Joy Trumbull tied the game at 17 and ended the JMS scoring run with 21 seconds left. However, the Lions would get the last laugh when Breon drove through traffic and hit a runner in the lane, ending the first half with a JMS 19-17 lead.

Still holding the hot hand after the intermission, the Lions scored the first eight points. Six of those points came from fast breaks by Hahn-Kline. The JMS defense bent but didn’t break as it was able to hold off a late third quarter run that allowed the Warriors to cut the lead to six going into the final stanza. In the fourth quarter, the defense remained strong early on when the Lions got the ball and built up another strong lead, 39-30 with 1:40 left.

“We had a few specific box and ones that we run. I thought we did a good job finding the weakness in their defense,” Meiser said. “It was a pretty nice game despite missing some foul shots and fast break attempt. We gutted it out and found a way to win.” As the time started to run off the clock, the Warriors made one last attempt to try to catch up. However, despite closing the gap to as little as five, the Lions defense had just enough to thwart any kind of comeback attempt as they held onto the six point victory. “Good teams find a way to win,” Meiser said. “They’re (Walnut) is not a bad team. I told their coach they’re the best sixth place team in the history of ACAA basketball. But our girls kept playing and they kept playing hard.”

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