READING - New Oxford hardly looked like a team whose season had just come to an end when the final buzzer sounded on New Oxford's 44-39 loss to Governor Mifflin in the first round of the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs on Tuesday
None of the Colonials shed a tear as they shook hands with the Mustangs. The postgame meeting in the locker room ended with the usual cheer and "Colonials" chant. Many emerged from the locker room smiling, and none of their faces showed the eyes-glossed-over look that so many players have after a final loss.
“We just knew we went out and played our hearts out," New Oxford junior point guard Breanne Sauter said. “We all are a little disappointed, but we’re gonna take that energy and come out next year stronger and better.”
Although the season's over, this Colonials team benefits from a luxury very few teams ever have: Every single player will be back next season.
That fact certainly made the end of Tuesday's game sting less. There were no seniors to say goodbye to for a final time, no reason to dwell on the missed opportunities that might have extended the season for a few more days. Just time to close the book on a 15-win season and start breaking open a new one sure to be full of high expectations for next year's season.
“For a first-year coach with the team, it took them a little bit, but they bought into what we wanted to do and the philosophy and we’re looking forward to next year," New Oxford coach James Kunkle said. “They know the offense now, so right out of the gate next year we should be in a better position. ... I think next year with this experience, they’ll know how to pull these (close games) out.”
The Colonials, the No. 15 seed in the district tournament, found themselves on the losing end of several close games this season, and Tuesday's loss was no different. They struggled to navigate a fast, swarming, full-court press by the No. 2-seeded Mustangs early on and fell behind 10-0, but battled back to lead by as many as four points before heading into the half tied up 23-23.
“I knew they weren’t a 15 because they beat Boyertown and Central Dauphin, who we lost to," Governor Mifflin coach Mike Clark said of New Oxford. "I don’t know if somebody was hurt earlier or someone wasn’t playing or coach was mad at someone, or something, but when I watched them on tape against Boyertown and Central Dauphin, I didn’t think they were a 15-seed.”
Governor Mifflin tried to take advantage of the fact that Kaelyn Long was in foul trouble in the second half, successfully sending her to the bench with her third foul less than two minutes into the third quarter. The Mustangs capitalized on that opportunity to take a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and held on to advance in the district tournament.
Governor Mifflin will face Lower Dauphin the district quarterfinals. New Oxford ends its season at 15-9 and begins looking ahead to next season.
“We just need to play all four quarters," Sauter said of what New Oxford needs to do to change the script next season. "We’re definitely in shape to do all four quarters, we just have to get it.”
Governor Mifflin 44, New Oxford 39
New Oxford (39)
Kaelyn Long 5 3-6 13, Presley Berryhill 4 3-4 12, Sauter 3 0-0 8, Luckabaugh 1 2-3 4, Slonaker 1 0-0 2. Totals — 15 8-13 39.
Governor Mifflin (44)
Melissa Martin 4 2-4 11, Madison Koehler 2 3-5 9, Anna Werner 4 1-2 9, Emonie Reviere 3 2-4 8, Kylie Herman 1 1-3 3, Samantha Latshaw 2 0-0 5. Totals — 16 9-18 44.
New Oxford _ 7 _ 16 _ 8 _ 8 _ — _ 44
Governor Mifflin _ 17 _ 6 _ 14 _ 7 _ — _ 39
3-point goals — New Oxford 3 (Sauter 2, Berryhill 1), Governor Mifflin 4 (Koehler 2, Martin 1, Latshaw 1).