McLoughlin sinks Lions with long-range buckets
After dropping its first two games against United, the Homer-Center girls' basketball team was focused on keeping the Lions from penetrating the paint during their third meeting.
“We've lost to them twice before,” Homer-Center coach Tom Lasher said. “We played man(-to-man defense) against them and we lost, we played a different zone against them and we lost. Tonight we tried a different zone and we tried focusing on their key players. We tried to deny them the ball.”
United was also intent on collapsing its defense to contest inside shots and forcing the Wildcats to settle for jumpers.
That was just fine with Homer-Center senior Maggie McLoughlin.
The Wildcats' standout scored 18 of her game-high 30 points from behind the 3-point line as Homer-Center earned a 60-52 win.
“When Maggie takes her time, she can make it from pretty much anywhere beyond the arc,” Lasher said of McLoughlin after the Wildcats improved to 7-11 overall, 6-7 Heritage Conference. “She got that time tonight and when she does, she's a very good shooter. She's one of the best I've ever seen.”
McLoughlin recorded all her points after the first quarter had ended. She hit three 3-pointers and went 4-for-5 from the free-throw line in the final period as she scored 13 of her team's 19 fourth-quarter points.
“Maggie's a heck of a player, there's no denying that,” United coach Lee Ann Ault said of McLoughlin, who has already signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Shepherd University next year. “We knew that. We played them twice already and we knew that we had to take care of her or she was going to take care of us.”
With McLoughlin accounting for 50 percent of Homer-Center's points, two of her teammates took care of nearly all the rest of the team's scoring.
Jamie Rura added 18 points for the Wildcats, hitting a 3-pointer in each of the first three quarters and going 3-for-3 from the foul line, while Sydney Horel added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Homer-Center trailed 15-9 after the first quarter, but outscored the Lions in each of the remaining three quarters. The Wildcats cut the deficit to 27-26 by halftime before taking a 41-38 lead into the final period.
“We felt if we could stop them from taking the ball to the hoop and getting scoring that way and getting fouls we thought that was our best chance to win,” Lasher said. “They're a good shooting team from the outside. We took some chances and they got a few of them in, but fortunately they didn't get as many in as they would have liked.”
United's Laura Brilhart hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening period and finished the game with a team-high 15 points.
“We've talked extensively about taking players out of the game or taking the inside game away and relying on the outside game,” Ault said. “I think tonight they were a little bit more comfortable with that than they have been maybe in some other games that we've played.”
Taylor Mack added 10 points for the Lions and Eden Bloom chipped in nine before fouling out with 1:09 left to play.
The Lions' Kylee Surike and Wendi Walsh each scored eight points and Walsh dished out a game-high nine assists.
“Wendi's a team player and that's what we're trying to really drive home with all the girls right now,” Ault said of the senior guard. “You go into a game where they might try to take Eden out of it or they might try to take Laura out of it and somebody else has to step up. I think she fit that role well tonight.”
The Wildcats went 21-of-26 from the charity stripe while the Lions combined for just five trips to the free-throw line – with one pair of foul shots prompted by a technical foul against the Wildcats' bench. United finished 8-for-10 from the line and didn't attempt a foul shot in the fourth quarter.
Homer-Center held a 32-22 edge in rebounds and came away with a narrow 11-10 advantage in steals. United blocked three shots to the Wildcats' one.
“In most games we are outsized and we have to try to make up for that with a little bit of heart and a little bit of scrappiness,” Ault said. “I think some of our players are finding out that size doesn't always matter. We're finding that in a couple people now.”
Mackenzie Livingston scored 25 points and Chelsey Koren added 22 as Blairsville (19-1, 14-0) cruised to its 19th straight win.
Courtney Kanyan chipped in 12 points and Laurel O'Barto added 13 for the Bobcats.
Greater Johnstown 58
Eden Bloom paced United with 29 points and 11 rebounds as the Lions eked out a win over the visiting Trojans.
Laura Brilhart added nine points and nine rebounds for United while Taylor Mack and Kylee Surike each scored eight.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.