NEFFSVILLE — Not unlike the two teams playing, Manheim Township sophomore Olivia Matto went up and then went under, but needless to say her shot went in.
In a thrilling fourth-quarter finish, Matto’s underhanded layup and free-throw helped the Township girls’ basketball team retake the lead over rival Hempfield, the Blue Streaks ultimately holding on for a 41-38 victory in the Section One opener for both teams.
“My teammates helped get me the ball,” Matto said of her lead-changing bucket. “They saw me on the skip and really thanks to my teammates I could get the ball and take it in. Once (the lead) dropped down we had to obviously get the ball to score. That’s what we needed to do so I took it to the hole.”
“Olivia saw the lane, she took it,” said Township head coach Sean Burkhart. “I couldn’t be prouder for her, she works so hard, and to step up to be a difference maker ultimately in that spot, I feel so good for her.”
Hempfield (5-3 overall, 2-2 L-L League) rallied from a 21-9 halftime deficit with a strong third quarter, eventually taking a 34-33 lead with 4:45 remaining in the fourth on Kylie Givler’s spinning jumper and a pair of Julianna Clark free-throws.
After Anna Williams’ layup gave the Knights a 36-33 lead, Matto (game-high 16 points) tallied seven straight for Township, draining the and-one opportunity with 1:08 left, then swishing a pair of free-throws for a 40-36 lead with 40 seconds to play.
Matto credited her senior teammates for the confidence to pull-out a close game.
“It’s not just her,” Burkhart said. “Her teammates trust her and she’s trusting her teammates, and the last week we’ve really been getting a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
Township (3-4, 3-1) has now won three straight after a 0-4 start to the season.
“When we were going through that rough patch we kept saying defense is an effort thing,” Burkhart said. “Offense on a given night you might not be making your shots but you can always control how hard you play ‘D’.”
It showed in the second quarter — in fact, through much of the first half — as Township held the Knights to a lone Clark bucket in the final fourteen minutes before intermission, after Hempfield had opened the game on a roll and a quick 7-0 lead.
Township senior Caitlin Hickey (14 points) led all scorers with 10 first-half points, a half in which Hempfield shot just 1-for-9 from behind the arc.
“Sure, we were really pleased with our ability to come back,” said Hempfield coach Brian Rife. “Unfortunately, we dug ourselves a pretty big hole in the second quarter. Give credit to their defense but also we missed a lot of shots that typically we might make.”
Clark (14 points) and sophomore Trinity Sumrall (9 points) sparked things in the third quarter, however, with quick drives and tenacious defense. Township led 25-11 before the Knights’ pressed, forcing seven turnovers including 3 steals by Sumrall. Clark then finished the quarter with a pair of lengthy treys to close to within 29-26 entering the fourth.
“There’s no (section) matchup that isn’t going to be that way this season I don’t think,” Burkhart said. “We put ourselves on an even keel with Hempfield; Cedar Crest and McCaskey are playing tonight so at the end of the night we’re right back in the thick of things again. I give them (the players) all the credit in the world, they keep coming to practice, keep working, keep fighting, and it’s really starting to show. This week’s results are proof of that.”
“I’m not angry or displeased by any means,” said Rife, whose team plays Section One leader Cedar Crest on Monday. “It’s so early in the season and we’ve played eight games already.
“I’m hoping we’re going to be a much better team at the end of January than we are right now and I’m confident we will be because we have players that can do it.”
Manheim Township 41, Hempfield 38
J. Clark 3 4-4 12, T. Sumrall 4 0-1 9, K. Givler 3 2-3 6, P. Diminick 2 0-1 6, A. Williams 2 1-2 5, S. Helgeson 0 0-0 0, K. Martinez 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 7-11 38.
Manheim Township (41)
O. Matto 5 5-5 16, C. Hickey 5 4-4 14, C. Newcomer 4 1-2 9, M. Beitzel 1 0-0 2, L. Hinnenkamp 0 0-3 0, D. McKnight 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 10-14 41.
HM _ 07 _ 02 _ 17 _ 12 _ — _ 38
MT _ 08 _ 13 _ 08 _ 12 _ — _ 41
3-Point Goals — HEM 5 (J. Clark 2, P. Diminick 2, T. Sumrall); MT 1 (O. Matto)
JV Score — Manheim Township 34, Hempfield 24