RUSSELL, Pa. – When Eisenhower and Youngsville met in mid-January, it was the Eagles holding serve on their home court with a 1-point victory.
Monday night, the Knights returned the favor as they raced out to a 14-point first-quarter lead and held off their county rival late for a 49-44 victory.
“Since my freshman year we have been battling, fighting them extremely hard every game and we just haven’t been able to pull away with it,” Eisenhower junior guard Bella Marino said. “But at practice, we’ve been putting in a lot of time and hours and I think we definitely deserved this.”
Eisenhower (2-13 overall, 1-8 Region 2) led wire-to-wire and for most of the game by double digits. The Knights took a 3-0 lead early thanks to three free throws from Mackenzie Dunn (one) and Marino (two). The Eagles (3-15, 1-9) responded with a field goal from Molly Helman with just over 6:30 to go in the first quarter.
Youngsville wouldn’t score again until Ashlee Peterson’s put-back at the buzzer.
In the meantime, Eisenhower went on a 15-0 run to take an 18-4 lead into the second quarter.
“(Building the lead) was extremely important,” Marino said. “If in the second quarter if we would have lost that big lead it would have been the end of it.”
Kenzie Olewine knocked down a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second quarter, but Dunn responded with a steal that led to a traditional 3-point play to push the lead back to 14, 21-7.
Olewine’s second three of the quarter cut it to a 10-point game with just over 5:30 to play in the half. The Eagles cut it to a 7-point game with 2:20 to go in the half, but Marino buried a corner three on the next possession to push the lead back to 10, 27-17.
Eisenhower took a 29-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
It took just over three minutes for the offenses to find their rhythm in the second half. Olivia Darling hit a turnaround jumper to give Youngsville the first points of the half. Tracey Jakubczak answered with a reverse layup on the other end.
The teams traded blows and buckets through the remainder of the quarter as the intensity and physicality ratcheted up with the offense. Still, the Knights maintained a double-digit lead, 35-25, going into the fourth quarter.
Zaylee Cressley’s 3-pointer with 3:15 to play seemed to spark the Eagles. Jakubczak answered with a traditional 3-point play on the other end, but Olewine had a layup and a three to pull Youngsville within five at 45-40.
The Knights didn’t allow the Eagles to close the gap any further and held on for the win.
“We needed to get our heads in the game and be more mentally tough than they were,” Marino said of closing out the win.
Youngsville had opportunities to put more points on the board but went just 5-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Marino finished with a team-high 20 points for the Knights and had three assists and three steals. Jakubczak, seeing action for just the second time this season due to injury, had 12 points a pair of rebounds and a block. Dunn had eight points and seven rebounds, and Lily Smyth had seven points and five boards.
Olewine had a game-high 22 points while Mia Rafalski had nine and Cressley five for the Eagles.