Huntingdon, Pa.- The Juniata women's basketball team advanced to the championship game of the 12th Annual Holiday Classic with a 54-49 win over St. Lawrence, Friday evening.
Dani Atkinson (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) had a game-high 16 points along with four assists, Rachael Anstine (York, Pa./Dallastown) had 12 points, three steals and three blocks while Morgan Instone (Johnstown, Pa./Bishop McCort) had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Gracie Stauffer (Loysville, Pa./West Perry) had eight points and five blocks while Carmella Bickel (Elysburg, Pa./Lourdes Regional) added six points.
Atkinson opened the scoring for the Eagles with a three from the right wing off pass from Bethany Spencer (York, Pa./ York Suburban). Instone made two foul shots and after another JC stop, Spencer hit Atkinson who beat everyone down the floor and laid it in as the Eagles led 7-0 early. The Saints scored, but with under a minute remaining the Eagles led, 14-5. With a few seconds on the shot clock, Anstine jabbed step to create space, rose up and drilled a three to make it 17-5. St. Lawrence scored inside with 20 seconds to go as the Eagles ended the quarter up 17-7.
The Saints went on a 10-2 run to pull within two in the first seven minutes of the quarter as JC struggled to score, with Instone's two foul shots providing the only scoring for the Eagles. Following a Juniata timeout, Atkinson scored on a layup and Stauffer scored on a layup off a pass from Bickel. The Saints scored from deep, and Stauffer scored inside again, this time off a pass from Anstine. Anstine split a free throw to make it 26-20. Juniata forced a turnover in the final 20 seconds and on the ensuing possession Bickel drove and scored to send JC into the half up 28-20.
The Saints opened the second half with the ball, but Anstine intercepted a pass. On the other end, she drove left and banked in a runner to make it 31-20. A few plays later, Instone caught the ball on the left block, spun, ducked under the arms of two defenders and flipped the ball in off the glass to make it 35-25. On the defensive end, Instone rejected a shot down low. Makayla Carles (Tyrone, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) grabbed the rebound and tossed it ahead to Atkinson. She froze her defender with a hesitation dribble before driving hard to the hoop and laying it in off the glass to make it 37-25. The Eagles went into the fourth up, 36-44.
St. Lawrence opened the fourth with 7-2 burst as they pulled within three at 46-43. Atkinson made a foul shot to push the lead back to four and the Saints scored inside to make it 47-45 with 2:38 to go. Two foul shots from Anstine pushed the lead back to four. The Saints came down and scored on a long two to get back within two.
With under a minute and half left, Haley Myers (Huntingdon, Pa./Juniata Valley) dribbled left towards a Stauffer screen and made a three, pushing the Eagle lead to five. The Saints scored inside, and then fouled Stauffer with 39 seconds. Stauffer made one of two, with Instone grabbing a massive offensive rebound in traffic. Bickel was fouled and split her foul shots as JC led 54-49 with just under 30 seconds left. The Saints came down, but JC's defense prevented them from finding a good look. The Eagles forced a difficult three that missed as JC held on to get the win.
The Eagles remain unbeaten at 10-0 and will face Delaware Valley in the championship game, tomorrow at 2:00.