HERSHEY>> With a touch under four minutes to play Tuesday evening at Giant Center, Governor Mifflin trailed Cedar Crest by six points in the District 3 Class AAAA semifinal. No one could have foreseen the coming avalanche.
Mifflin pulled out its full court pressure attack and demolished Cedar Crest to win 57-50 and advance to the D-3 title game opposite Cumberland Valley. The Eagles beat Harrisburg Monday night to reach the title game.
The Mustangs trailed the Falcons 48-42, with half the fourth quarter gone, before Mifflin head coach Mike Clark finally unleashed the full court press, to devastating results.
The initial burst of defensive pressure produced three turnovers and a foul shot worth seven points, for a 49-48 Mifflin edge, but it didn’t end there. The Berks League champs and No. 2 seed in Quad A stayed on the gas pedal and embarked on a 15-0 run to close out the Crest and reserve a date for the title game.
For the game, Cedar Crest turned the ball over 30 times — a full third of that total coming with under four minutes to play.
Still, it was a close shave. Mifflin had shown no signs of being capable of such carnage for 28 minutes against a 22-3 Crest ballclub. And then …
“We were trying to save it and save it,” Clark said of the press. “We went over it a lot at practice. Better coaches don’t show stuff til late so it’s hard to make adjustments. And that’s what you saw.”
Clark’s demeanor on the Giant Center floor went a long way in keeping his squad — which has now won 27 of 28 contests, by the way — calm.
“The thing I’ve learned over the years watching other people coach is that kids do what the coach does,” Clark said. “So I always tell myself as long as I keep calm, even though I’m nervous inside, the kids are gonna stay calm and climb back in.”
Cedar Crest head man Jim Donmoyer seemed as stunned by the steep turn of events as anyone.
“The bottom line is that we didn’t take care of the basketball for the last three minutes and 42 seconds,” Donmoyer said, reciting the exact time things started going south. “That’s where it was won and lost.”
Mifflin guard Melissa Martin finished with a team-high 14 points and played a key role at both ends of the floor.”We needed to start bringing up the lead before it was too late,” Martin said. “Trying to go with little time left is really tough.
“There were definitely a bit of nerves, because they were a good team. But we knew each other’s strengths and knew we could pull this one out.”
Until the late blitz of pressure completely melted down the Falcons, the floor’s largest presence belonged to Crest center Alyssa Austin. Austin had 13 first-half points and provided a paint road block the likes of which doesn’t exist in Berks, with the possible exception of Berks Catholic’s Devon Merritt.
Mifflin’s post game was non-existent; if the Mustangs tried anything within arm’s length of Austin it was snuffed. Even though she ceded the team scoring lead after the break to guard Ariel Jones, Austin had nine blocks and nine rebounds to go with 14 points, narrowly missing a triple-double. Jones, team sparkplug, led the Crest with 15 points.
Mifflin finished the first half on a 6-0 run to grab a 31-28 lead at the break. Prior to that, the Mustangs uncharacteristically went on a brief NBA 3-pointer splurge which was wildly unsuccessful and allowed the Crest to regain the lead for much of the second quarter.
The Falcons led 40-38 after three.
Jenn Martin chipped in with 13 points for the Mustangs and Kyra Hartman added 10.