Benton's Seely dooms Shamokin
MIFFLINBURG - As Justine Seely goes, so goes Benton.
And Seely went off Wednesday night to the tune of 35 points, 21 rebounds, six blocks and six steals.
Take that performance away and Shamokin probably would have fared better than a 57-50 loss to the Heartland Conference Division III champs in the first Heartland Conference tournament.
Benton will play Danville in the final at 6 p.m. Saturday at Williamsport.
What's perhaps more impressive is that Seely was held to just one point, the game's first, in the first quarter, and still Benton led 11-5 after the first eight minutes.
After that, it was Seely's game. She scored eight in the
second quarter, 12 in the third and 14 in the fourth.
"We didn't do a good job," Shamokin head coach Bill Callahan said. "Our number one focus was to stop her and we just didn't do it. That's the bottom line and we didn't follow the gameplan. In the second half, any time we got near her, it was a foul."
Casey Gavin's outside shooting hurt the Indians before Seely ever got started.
With Shamokin struggling from the field on offense and focusing solely on Seely on defense, Gavin took advantage of some wide open looks to sink two 3-pointers.
But with Shamokin continuing to force the ball inside and surprisingly outrebounding Benton 25-10 in the first half, Seely got in foul trouble.
When the Tigers' senior went to the bench with 6:42 left in the second quarter, the Indians seized their opportunity.
The combination of Kelsey Yacko and Olivia Bonshock was too much for Benton to handle without Seely. The pair scored the 12 points in the game and Shamokin took its first lead at 15-14 and went up by as much as 20-15 even with Seely on the floor.
The Indians' lead didn't last long. With Seely scoring seven straight points, Benton retook the lead and went in at the half with a 26-25 lead.
Just like the beginning of the second quarter, Shamokin jumped ahead and grabbed another five-point lead behind Yacko and Bonshock.
Yacko led the Indians with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Bonshock had 15 points and 14 rebounds. But it was the Indians' misses that haunted them through the first half and into the third quarter.
Shamokin missed 52 shots, eight more than Benton attempted all game.
"We blew the game with our poor shooting performance from layupville," Callahan said, but took the blame for not having his players motivated and ready to play.
Still, Callahan didn't miss 19 shots in the first quarter.
After the Indians gave the lead back to Benton in the middle of the third quarter, the Indians got to within three once, but, as was the story all game, Seely was too much.
"We weren't in the game mentally or physically and that's my job as a head coach, and I didn't get the job done," Callahan said.
Shamokin has a chance to redeem itself with the Division I title still on the line when the Indians travel to Danville Friday, then on to the District 4 Class AAA playoffs.
Thankfully, Seely's bunch is Class A.
Heartland Conference Tournament Semifinal
BENTON (57) - Stevens 1 4-5 6, Miller 0 2-4 2, Yurko 1 1-2 4, Seely 11 12-16 35, Derrick 0 0-0 0, Kribel 0 0-0 0, Gavin 4 0-0 10. Totals 17 19-27 57.
SHAMOKIN (50) - Forbes 1 2-3 4, Pancher 0 0-0 0, Bonshock 4 6-6 15, Yacko 8 3-4 19, Pesarchick 3 0-0 8, Koons 0 0-0 0, Zimmerman 0 0-0 0, Erb 1 1-2 3. Totals 17 12-15 50.
3-point FGs: Gavin 2, Seely, Pesarchick 2, Bonshock.