TYRONE - When the District 6 Class AA high school girls basketball playoff bracket came out, Juniata coach Meghan Geedey took notice of her team's first-round opponent Penn Cambria.
"I have been telling everybody, man, I haven't seen them, but I wish they were a little worse for a 12-seed," Geedey said. "I knew coming in that we were going to have to play really well to win."
The Lady Panthers lived up to Geedey's worries and took the No. 5 seeded Lady Indians to the brink of elimination before falling, 53-48, in the Tyrone Area Middle School gymnasium Tuesday night.
"You get to this level and it's a matter of possessions here and there," Penn Cambria coach Rodger Fair said. "It became a game of runs, and unfortunately we couldn't keep enough of our starters on the floor at the same time."
The Lady Panthers, who only played six girls until the final seconds, had three starters foul out against Juniata (21-2). Emily Roberts missed most of the third quarter with four fouls before fouling out in the fourth. Tori Shingler sat out much of the fourth quarter before picking up her fifth foul, and offensive spark plug Kaitlyn Krug bowed out with 24.6 seconds left.
"We're thin to begin with," Fair said. "[The foul trouble] makes it really tough."
Krug led all scorers with 24 points and seemingly was able to drive to the basket at will. Krug hit a pair of free throws with 1:21 left to pull Penn Cambria within two but got called for a charge while attempting a layup that would have tied the game with 37 seconds left.
Carly Burns took care of business at the foul line for Juniata, making 10-of-13 shots from the charity stripe on the night, to put the game away.
"She was absolutely clutch," Geedey said. "This was her first game back after four games of not being able to play, so she was huge. The team as a whole just made big plays."
Penn Cambria (12-11) will lose two players who saw action in Tuesday's game to graduation. Seniors Roberts and Brianna Mulhern combined for seven points against the Lady Indians.
"Next year we have some really strong juniors coming back," Krug said. "I think we can go further next year because of the experience we all gained playing this year."
Megan Wheeler, who hit a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run that gave Penn Cambria a 44-42 lead with 3:21 left, will return next year along with Shingler. Shingler finished with six points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
"We have four of our first six players coming back next year," Fair said. "I feel good that they've got a lot of basketball experience behind them, and I think they're looking forward to another year as much as I am."
PENN CAMBRIA (48): Mulhern 2 0-0 4, Krug 9 5-8 24, Roberts 1 1-2 3, Shingler 3 0-0 6, Wheeler 3 1-2 9, Vincent 0 2-2 2, Strittmatter 0 0-0 0, Link 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18 9-14 48.
JUNIATA (53): Swartz 2 2-2 8, Varner 6 4-6 19, Zendt 1 0-0 2, Burns 6 10-13 22, Winey 1 0-0 2, Pray 0 0-0 0, Parson 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 16-21 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria14 9 10 10 - 48
Juniata13 10 10 15 - 53
3-point goals: Penn Cambria 3 (Wheeler 2, Krug); Juniata 5 (Varner 3, Swartz 2).
Records: Penn Cambria (12-11); Juniata (21-2).
Officials: Denny Detwiler, Stan Risser, Don McClure.