YORK – The York Dukes did not have their ‘A’ game Tuesday night, but fueled by a 17-7 run in the third quarter, the Central Conference’s No. 2 seed had just enough in the tank to fend off 7-seed Crete 41-30 in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals.
“In the conference tournament, no matter who you play, when you play or where you play it’s a tough game. These two teams know each other – we played them just over a week ago – and Crete’s got a lot of pride in their program. They’re a well-run, well-coached team, and they’re going to battle. We knew it would be that way and we had to grind it out, but at the end of the day we found a way to win and that’s the most important thing.”
After carrying a 16-14 lead into the locker room thanks to 17 Crete turnovers in the first half, York’s pivotal run began midway through the third quarter.
With Crete trailing 21-18, Lauryn Haggadone buried a 3-pointer to double the lead. Moments later, Lainey Portwine poked the ball loose and delivered a strike to Chloe Koch, who took it to the rack for a layup.
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York got another defensive stop but missed a shot before Portwine crashed the offensive glass for a putback bucket. The Dukes got a stop on the other end, Kiersten Portwine missed a three but York again hit the offense glass. The ball found its way to Kiersten Portwine on the wing, and the junior buried a trey to cap a 10-0 Dukes run and make it 31-18 with 2:05 left in the stanza.
Crete never truly threatened after that key run; the Cardinals cut the deficit to nine points a few times in the fourth quarter but never got any closer than that as the Dukes advanced to the conference semifinals with an 11-point win.
York did not shoot especially well Tuesday, connecting on just 30.8% (16 of 52) shots for the game. The Dukes also went just 5 of 23 from beyond the arc.
However, the hosts made up for it with a strong showing defensively. Crete finished just 7 of 29 from the floor and attempted 23 fewer field goals thanks to York’s massive advantage in the turnover department. The Dukes recorded 17 takeaways in the first half and 27 for the game while giving the ball away just 12 times themselves.
Kiersten Portwine canned four of York’s five triples and led all scorers with 16 points in the win.
“My teammates are doing really well getting me the ball,” the junior said after the game. “They were getting into the paint and passing out to me. Those kick-outs were always open, so it was really easy for me to catch and shoot and get ready for that.”
Behind her, Josie Loosvelt added nine points and Koch finished with seven.
“I thought Josie really was attacking tonight, so I really liked seeing that. She did a good job, and then Kiki is just a real stable player for us. She just does her thing, got some good looks and hit some threes.”
Haggadone recorded five points and Lainey Portwine added four to round out the Dukes’ scoring effort.
Mack Steuer accounted for all four of Crete’s 3-pointers and led the Cardinals with 14 points. Marin Rasgorshek added seven, Sierra Crist notched five and Lauren Maly and Canry Draeger both rounded out the scoring with two.
Crete finished the game shooting just 7 of 29 from the floor, but the Cardinals went 9 for 11 at the foul line compared to 4 of 7 for the Dukes. Crete also held a 26-20 rebounding advantage for the game but was outworked on the glass 12-8 in the second half.
York will likely need to shoot better the rest of the way this week to win the Central Conference crown, but at this stage of the year the name of the game is ‘survive and advance.’ The Dukes did that Tuesday and now await a matchup with 3-seed Seward in the semis Thursday night.
“We had kind of a slow start, but once we started hitting more shots, it brought a lot of energy and momentum,” Kiersten Portwine said after the game. “The energy carried kept us flowing, and the outcome went our way.”