MANDATA — Guess playing for a berth in the Tri-Valley League’s postseason basketball tournament does mean something.
Of course, when you have a pair of backyard rivals on the floor and anxious to get after one another — particularly since these neighborhood foes already logged a single-possession outcome — that too can up the stakes.
With Emma Miller logging a powerful double-double — the 6-foot-1 sophomore banked 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds — and lead guard Jana Strait adding 10 points and 10 boards, Millersburg grabbed a 39-34 victory over its northern neighbors in a Tri-Valley League East Division contest that before the final horn sounded may have generated more bruises than buckets Friday night at Line Mountain High School.
Kyleigh Masser’s seven points paced the Eagles, while Hannah Ruohoniemi pulled down 17 rebounds and Kyleen Michael added 10.
In addition to completing a sweep of Ian Lundy’s Eagles (7-5, 4-3), Millersburg slipped into third place in the TVL East with plenty of contests remaining to be played. With the TVL opting to reinstate its four-team postseason event, the divisional champions will qualify, as will the two teams that sport the next best records.
By the way, Chad Everhart’s Indians (10-6, 5-2) won the earlier meeting 36-34.
“When we don’t make shots and have trouble scoring, we struggle,” Lundy said.
Since the earlier meeting played out in similar fashion — with nearly every shot contested and mayhem ensuing whenever a rebound was clutched — maybe it was fitting Line Mountain was rolling out its well-used mats for today’s wrestling tournament moments after the final buzzer sounded.
While Millersburg’s solid start was offset by Line Mountain’s determined second quarter — and both sides made some shots — these outfits bounced toward their respective locker rooms knotted in a 24-all tie. Miller finished the opening half with 13 hard-earned points.
“We were ready to go from the beginning,” Miller said. “We were hyped up. Our teammates picked us up and we got right back into it, even if one of us messes up. It’s constant, you just keep your heads up and you keep playing.”
Everhart’s Indians also turned the ball over 20 times, 10 during Line Mountain’s second-quarter rally. The Eagles finished with 16.
Although the host Eagles slipped in front on Kyleen Michael’s scoop shot early in the third quarter, Miller knocked down the front end of a two-shot trip to the foul line to pull the Indians within one (26-25). Then, on consecutive possessions, a pair of Strait runouts had Everhart’s group up three.
“Any time you’re struggling a little bit offensively and you’re able to just get a bucket, I think that just takes the pressure off you a little bit,” Everhart said. “(Jana) has really active hands and she’s a great athlete, really quick, and if she gets a tip out nobody’s catching her.”
Unfortunately for Lundy’s group, the Eagles never got closer than a single point the rest of the way — and that came on a Liz Spieles finish at the rim midway through the third quarter. Two Masser freebies had Line Mountain down two (36-34) with 2:20 to go, but the hosts never scored again.
Millersburg, meanwhile, made six trips to the free-throw line — yet only canned three of its 10 attempts — with two of those ventures set up by intentional fouls that led to a pair of looks and possession. So, the Eagles had chances.
Conversely, the Indians had opportunities to win more comfortably.
“I don’t think I could get any grayer, but I probably did,” Everhart cracked, referring to his team’s struggles at the foul line. “We knocked some down when we needed to, but it would have been nice to get a few of those earlier and make things a little less stressful.”
Regardless of what transpired during those final eight minutes — Line Mountain was 0-for-14 from the floor while Millersburg was just 1-for-11 — Everhart’s Indians made the short trip home with the result they sought. And for at least a few days, they sit third in the TVL East.
“We knew this was a big game and we were tied with them,” Everhart said. “We knew we had to get a big win here.”
“We are definitely more motivated to make it into the league championships,” Miller said. “We are motivated.”
Line Mountain will have chances to flush Friday’s encounter quickly as Greenwood visits Monday — and then, one night later in Perry County, the Eagles take on TVL East frontrunner Susquenita.
“If we could have gotten them even more flustered, I think we could have beaten them,” Lundy said.