After the revelry of the area’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade had died down, Mackenzie Steele made sure her, and her teammates, kept on marching in the PIAA Class A playoffs.
The Lady Sabers’ junior center scored 23 points, including 8 during a pivotal run in the first half that put Susquehanna back into the game after an early deficit. Steele snared 9 rebounds and disrupted multiple shots as Susquehanna rallied to knock off Millville 53-40 in the PIAA first round Class A girls’ basketball playoff.
Despite playing their second playoff game in a row at Dunmore High School, Susquehanna struggled from the outside as Millville built an 18-4 lead early in the second quarter.
“We were getting wide open looks from three, they just weren’t going down,” Susquehanna Coach Kirk Fallon said.
Susquehanna then went inside to Steele who ignited a 11-2 run that cut the lead to 20-15 with just under three minutes on the clock before the half.
“We just kept our mind to win,” explained Steele of the team’s resiliency. “My teammates looked for me inside and were able to get me the ball in spots I liked.”
But Steele picked up her second foul and Fallon opted to sit her for the remainder of the half and Millville went on a 7-1 run to lead 27-16 at intermission.
“She was getting comfortable on both ends and was going after offensive rebounds aggressively,” said Fallon. “I had no choice. But she’s a smart player and adapted.”
Fallon chose to not harp on the negative in his halftime discussion and focused on settling his troops down staying positive.
“We weren’t playing as poorly as the score may have indicated, we just weren’t making shots,” Fallon said.
Thus, it was reiterated to keep driving the ball and looking for Steele as a first option rather than settling for the first open jump shot.
Susquehanna also abandoned the press that Fallon felt led to easy baskets for Millville and settled into their zone in order to stifle Millville’s attack.
“We are long in spots and became really active,” said Fallon.
That change in philosophy limited the Millville scoring in the third.
Meanwhile, the Lady Sabers attacked the interior and looking for opportunities in transition. Mackenzie Heath found Steele ahead of the pack and lobbed a pass that Steele corralled and converted to give Susquehanna its first lead, 30-28.
Susquehanna held a 35-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Heath found Steele for two more easy buckets early in the fourth and then a couple threes fell.
Leading scorer Taylor Huyck, who missed her first 11 shots took a Bethan Maby feed and buried a trey.
Heath knocked down a key three to put Susquehanna up 49-38 with just over two minutes to go and put the game out of reach for Millville.
Steele felt the Lady Sabers relied on their familiarity and togetherness to persevere past the slow start and push ahead in the final quarter.
“Being with each other for so long and having confidence to trust each other was important,” said Steele. “Coach told us he wasn’t worried at halftime and there was a whole half in front of us.”
Steele’s 23 led the way for Susquehanna. Heath had 13;’ and Huyck chipped in with 11.
Susquehanna advanced to tonight’s (Wednesday, March 13) second round game versus Greenwood to be played at Bloomsburg University at 6 p.m.