Juniata Valley found itself with several opportunities to put another notch in the win column Saturday evening in the championship game of the annual Forest Hills Tip-Off Tournament. However, the host Rangers came close to putting five players in double figures, but needed overtime to pull out a 64-59 win over the Green Hornets (1-1).
Forest Hills (2-0) advanced into the title game after rolling to a 66-20 win over Penns Valley in Friday’s semifinal, while Juniata Valley won a 53-50 decision over Central Cambria. The Red Devils captured consolation honors with a 59-38 decision against Penns Valley Saturday.
Halee Smith paced Juniata Valley with a game-high 27 points to help the senior Hornet surpass the 1,500-point plateau for her career. Hayden Taylor followed with 12 points, while Avery Taylor added seven. H. Smith also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists, while H. Taylor finished with six boards and four assists.
Jordyn Smith fronted the Rangers with 15 points, while Haley Croyle and Maddie Cecere followed with 12 and 11, respectively. Lexi Koeck and Remi Smith posted eight markers apiece. J. Smith also added nine rebounds and four steals.
“This was a very exciting game with a lot of back-and-forth play,” commented Hornet head coach Rachelle Hopsicker. “We had the ball with three seconds left in regulation and a chance to score, but couldn’t. We should have been to the point where we didn’t even need overtime, but we missed free throws and had problems with a lot of little things.”
Forest Hills shot 43 percent from the field (22 of 51), compared to 40 percent for Juniata Valley (21 of 52), but it was the Hornets to carved out a 16-11 advantage at the quarter mark. The Rangers put together a better effort in the second period to pull to within one point (28-27) at the intermission.
“Forest Hills is well coached and we played against them in the summer, so we are familiar with each other,” continued Hopsicker. “We know they run their offense and defense very well. It all just came down to the little things. But, we had two very good games at the tournament against a pair of defending district champions.”
The teams exchanged 18-point efforts in the third and Valley went into the fourth leading 46-45. The Rangers were able to tie the contest at 58-58 at the end of regulation and then outscored the Hornets 6-1 in the extra period.
Juniata Valley opens its ICC South schedule this evening at Mount Union.