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MECHANICSBURG — Down double-digits at one point in the second half, Mechanicsburg reeled off three straight buckets with a little more than three minutes to play to shrink the Cedar Cliff lead to 32-30.

It was the closest the two teams had been since time expired in the first quarter.

The Wildcats had an opportunity after a timeout to take the lead when long-range sharpshooter Talia Gilliard had a 3-pointer ring in and out of the basket. But it was Cedar Cliff’s success at the free-throw line, going 8-for-8 including three sets of 1-and-1s, down the stretch that sealed the 40-32 victory for the Colts in a battle between two of the better Mid-Penn Keystone teams Friday night.

“Two senior captains there, Ashley [Hoagland] and Sophie [Kaercher], finished us out,” Cedar Cliff head coach Scott Weyant. “We’ve been struggling at the line a couple of games throughout the year and they’ve really been working hard at it. I’m proud they stepped up and knocked them down.”

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Cedar Cliff (8-4, 4-3) used a strong first half on the boards to generate second and third chances on the offensive end that propelled them to an 18-10 advantage at the break.

“That’s been our emphasis all season long,” Weyant said. “We don’t have very much size, so we work at least 15-20 minutes a day on boxing out and different drills to do that. We lost a game at McDevitt last week that we thought we should have won just because of some second shots. The last two days we made that an emphasis, and the girls responded.”

Two 3-pointers from Rylee Everett after halftime gave Mechanicsburg (8-4, 3-4) some momentum as it chipped away at the Cedar Cliff lead. But ultimately the deficit was too much to make up for the Wildcats.

“We missed a couple of pretty good looks early on, so it got stretched out a little further than it needed to,” Mechanicsburg head coach Clay McAllister said. “I didn’t think we played badly and all of a sudden their lead is at 10, but you feel like you played pretty well. We only had 11 turnovers, and that’s pretty good considering how hard those two teams were going at each other.”

Hoagland’s 11 points led Cedar Cliff while Natalie Sassano and Sophie Kaercher had six and five points, respectively, for the Colts after halftime.

Logan Nutt had seven points to top Mechanicsburg’s effort as Everett, Gilliard and Abbey Engle each had six points in the loss.

“They’re not at a place for moral victories right now, so they’re frustrated,” McAllister said. “But I’m proud of them. Our league is very good and competitive, so there’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves.”

Cedar Cliff returns home for a non-conference matchup against Elizabethtown on Monday evening, while Mechanicsburg visits Hershey on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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