Slow starts have been a problem for New Oxford all season. But junior Kaelyn Long said each Colonial has a switch, and once it flips on for any player, she becomes difficult to stop.
Long said that's how her team responds to deficits, and Friday night her switch flipped on to ignite New Oxford to a 42-30 win against South Western. Long scored a career-high 27 points, including 12 of her team's 15 first-half points and a personal 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter after the Colonials trailed 27-24 heading into the period.
“Her motor, she was just going and getting the ball," South Western coach Kevin Klunk said of why Long was so tough for his team to defend. "She just outworked us.”
Long got reinforcements in the second half as fellow junior Haley Luckabaugh hit a 3-pointer to open the half and went on to score 12 points. The only other player to score for the Colonials was Daelyn Stabler, who scored a jump shot and a free throw on consecutive possessions in the first half.
“I think she was a little frustrated with herself, things weren’t going her way," New Oxford first-year coach Jim Kunkle said of Luckabaugh, "and I think coming out in the second half, when she nailed that 3 I knew we were feeling good at that point and we started taking off.”
The Colonials, who have found themselves playing from behind in several games this year, trailed three separate times before pulling away in the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run that forced South Western to start fouling.
“We don’t think negative and we’re always encouraging each other," Luckabaugh said. "If I make a mistake, I always hear one of my teammates saying, ‘Next play.’ We say that to each other, and we’re just there for each other.”
On a night when YAIAA Division I powerhouses Red Lion and Central York met, the Colonials' defeat of the Mustangs broke a tie for third place in Division I. Third place is significant because the top three teams in the division advance to the YAIAA tournament with a chance to win a league title, something Kunkle often reminds his team about.
“We’re striving to be a contender," Long said. "No seniors, a new coach, we’re just proving that we are here to fight and get to that York County playoff.”
New Oxford (42)
Kaelyn Long 9 9-11 27, Haley Luckabaugh 4 3-5 12, Stabler 1 1-2 3. Totals — 14 13-18 42.
South Western (30)
Jacey Shipley 4 0-0 10, Geiman 4 0-2 9, Feeser 2 1-2 5, Wisensale 1 0-0 2, Gough 1 0-0 2, Soullaird 1 0-0 2. Totals — 13 1-3 30.
New Oxford _ 2 _ 13 _ 9 _ 18 _ — _ 42
South Western _ 9 _ 4 _ 14 _ 3 _ — _ 30
3-point goals — New Oxford 1 (Luckabaugh 1), South Western 3 (Shipley 2, Geiman 1).
JV — South Western won.