With visiting Catholic lead by one with less that 10 seconds left, Southern Huntingdon product Larissa Leonard found sophomore center Gracie Stauffer for a layup and a foul with 2.8 seconds on the clock. Stauffer added the free throw and Juniata led 60-58.
After a time out, Catholic’s Luca Mamula took a long three-points shot that came up short. Juniata got the rebound and preserved the victory.
“This was a great win,” said Eagle coach Danny Young-Uhrich. “Larissa had a wonderful game and she has the ability to do that. We needed somebody to step up and make three-point shots and she did that. At the end, she kept her dribble and worked to the top of the key and found Gracie. She needed a game like this.”
Leonard and Stauffer both finished the game with 16 points. Leonard hit four of six field goal attempts, all from three-point range, and added a four-of-six performance from the foul line. Stauffer had just three points in the first half, but scored nine in the crucial fourth quarter.
Juniata led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and 25-23 at halftime. In the third quarter, a basket by Averie Hess gave the Eagles a seven-point lead (32-25) with 5:52 to play in the third. Catholic ran off six straight points to cut the deficit to one with 4:32 left. Stauffer hit four straight free throws in the final minute of the quarter to push the lead back to seven (42-35), but a basket by Catholic’s Megan Stafford before the buzzer cut the different to five.
A basket by Kaeana Rebert and a three-pointer by Leonard gave Juniata its biggest lead of the night (47-37, but the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run to again cut the Eagle lead to one.
A three-point play by Sydney Poindexter with 1:52 left in the game gave Catholic a 54-52 edge.
Baskets by Rebert and Stauffer and a free throw by Leonard gave Juniata a 57-54 lead. Mollie Reynolds hit two free throws and a layup to make it 58-57. Juniata brought the ball in, moved to the left corner in the offensive zone when Leonard got the ball and made the pass to Stauffer to set up the win.
“We had to work very hard for the points we got,” said Young-Uhrich. “Catholic plays a very aggressive 2-3 zone and puts a lot of pressure on everybody. We had some lapses defensively and gave up some easy shots, but did a good job most of the night. We were missing a lot of three-point shots, but we were in position to get rebounds and had a lop-sided 42-22 advantage.”
Behind Leonard and Stauffer, Rebert finished the night with 11 points. Juniata hit 20 of 50 shots from the field (40 percent).
Mamula led the Cardinals with 15 points, while Reynolds scored 11 and Stafford 10. The Cardinals hit 23 of 50 shots (46 percent). The Cardinals were guilty of 17 turnovers, while the Eagles committed 27.
“Turnover have been a problem for us this season, but 27 against this defense isn’t so bad,” concluded Young-Uhrich. “We have some momentum after this game, but we’re at Scranton for another very tough outing Saturday.”