CLAYSVILLE – McGuffey’s key Section 5-AA game Monday night against Charleroi was a chance for the Highlanders’ girls basketball team to make a statement.
And it didn’t take them long to make a big one.
The Highlanders got off to hot starts in both the first and second quarters and finished strong en route to a big 71-36 win that not only was McGuffey’s 13th consecutive win, but also kept them perfect in the section.
Charleroi entered the night right on the heels of the Highlanders, riding a seven-game winning streak. The Cougars could have gained a share of first place in the section with a win, but they quickly found themselves in too big of a hole.
When McGuffey (9-0, 16-1) is forcing turnovers on the defensive end, they are a very tough team to beat, and the Highlanders set the tone early on with their defense.
“We came out with a lot of emotion,” said McGuffey coach Amanda Burchett. “We wanted to come out early and get after them defensively. We get going offensively because of our defense, and we couldn’t have scripted a better start.”
The Highlanders forced three turnovers in Charleroi’s first four possessions and Cougars (8-2, 13-6) quickly found themselves down 9-0.
McGuffey led 16-3, but Charleroi fought back and closed to within 20-13 by the end of the first quarter. However, McGuffey put the game away by scoring the first 14 points of the second quarter to push the lead to 21.
“We didn’t mind the fast pace, and I thought we hung in there for a while in the first half,” said Charleroi head coach Joe Grodz. “But once we fell behind big, the only way you can come back is one basket at a time and we didn’t have a very good night offensively. Plus, they have scorers everywhere. They don’t average 70 points per game for nothing. Once they get going, they are tough to slow down.”
A lot of that came from Sammie Weiss, who continued her big season. Weiss scored 20 of her game-high 33 points in the first half to send the Highlanders out to the big lead. Though Weiss was having a lot of success, this one was a team effort.
Charleroi double- and triple-teamed Weiss, but that gave others the opportunity to score. Rachel Czulewicz and Sam Chadwick were rewarded for an outstanding night defensively with big offensive performances. Czulewicz scored 10 of her 19 in the second half and Chadwick finished with 12 points.
“I can always tell when they are going to double team Sammie,” said Czulewicz. “When they do, we know someone will be open, and we get in the right spots to get the ball and get open shots. We are very team-oriented, so we have people that will step up. But that is all possible because we play hard on defense.”
McGuffey is one win away from clinching at least a piece of the section title, but Burchett won’t look too far ahead.
“We really do just keep it one game at a time,” said Burchett, whose team plays at Beth-Center Thursday. “It is easy to stay focused when you just worry about the next game.”
Mya Woytovich scored 12 points for Charleroi.