Three is the key

HOWLAND – All it took to make for an eventful senior night for the Howland Tigers girls’ basketball team was one 3-point shot by Jordan Entler.

The shot gave the Tigers a five-point lead as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter. It also proved to be the impetus needed for Howland to pull away to a 63-55 win over the Liberty Leopards in a game between All-American Conference teams.

Entler, a senior, scored seven more points in the fourth quarter to finish with a season-high 15, and fellow senior Gabby Cvengros scored four in the final 8 minutes to finish with a team-high 19. Cvengros had tears in her eyes as she talked about wanting to win the last home game in the high school careers of the seniors.

“I didn’t think we expected to come out and play as bad as we did at the beginning, but then we realized this is our last home game of the season and we needed to pull together,” Cvengros said. “We did at the end.”

Entler played with a purpose in mind in the second half. It was because of the halftime talk among the players and the speech given by Howland coach John Diehl. All the conversation centered on the senior aspect of the evening.

“It was one of the major topics of the locker-room conversation, but we also wanted to keep up our intensity because we didn’t have that in the first half,” Entler said. “I think we’ve played better, but I think we wanted it so bad, especially because it was senior night.”

Diehl couldn’t remember a time when Entler put together a string of better minutes on the floor for Howland (10-9).

“Jordan played the best 3 minutes of her life, maybe,” Diehl said. “She hit a couple 3s, had a steal, made a layup. Jordan had a real nice game.”

The Leopards (12-6) showed signs of pulling away in the first half behind the strong inside play of Rachel Crum, who scored 20 points. Liberty had a 13-12 lead after one quarter and led by as many as seven points, 19-12, in the second quarter.

The Tigers began to put things together after trailing 28-24 at halftime. Freshman Sara Price and Cvengros both scored six points in the third quarter as Howland took a five-point lead into the fourth period.

“Jordan hitting that 3 was a big hit,” Diehl said. “It gave us a little spread. She did it off the dribble. She does it in practice every now and then. She likes that shot. That’s her favorite shot.”

The Leopards weren’t able to recover after a nine-point third quarter. They cut the Tigers’ lead to 45-42 on a free throw by Amy Mikulich, but missed free throws proved costly. Liberty was 12-of-28 from the line.

The Leopards were weakened when inside player Marcy Dykes was whistled for a fourth personal foul.

“Our plan was to attack them inside,” Liberty coach Ron DeJulio said. “That one 3-minute stretch when they caught up and went ahead, we couldn’t catch up after that.”

Leah Leshnack added 15 points to Liberty’s scoring. Mikulich had 10.

Price finished with 13 points.