Juniata Valley, who three new players in starting roles, got a tough opener in the first round of the Forest Hills opener Friday evening.
The Hornets lost the lead in the fourth period against host Forest Hills, but fought back to start the year with a 58-51 victory.
"Forest Hills is a good team," said Hornet coach Rachelle Hopsicker. "They played hard and finished well. We showed some jitters with new kids starting, but they worked through it and gained some valuable experience. It was a great game for us to open the season."
Valley had an 11-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, then the teams played even in the second stanza, each scoring 15 points. Valley maintained a 26-23 advantage at the break.
The Rangers made a move in the third period, outscoring the Hornets 18-16 to close within a point at 42-41. Forest Hills had a lead in the final stanza, but couldn't hang on.
The Hornets' Halee Smith lead all scorers with 27 points in the game. Hayden Taylor added 21. Valley had a slim 27-26 advantage on the boards with H. Smith pulled down eight caroms. Olivia Smith dished out a game high five assists for the night.
For the Rangers, Jadyn Smith led the offense with 20 points. Carley Stigers finished with 10 points and five rebounds in the contest. Taylor Burda also finished with five boards for the Rangers.
"This game reminded me a lot of two years ago when Halee and Hayden came on the scene as freshmen," Hopsicker added. "We have a lot of things we can do to get better and we saw what some of those things are tonight. The was great experience for us, especially the younger kids."
The Hornets will be back in action today around 7 p.m. when they square off with State College in the championship game.