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January 24, 2014

Strong's key bucket helps Patriots edge Chiefs

CLINTONVILLE — The Saranac girls’ basketball team used an 18-point third quarter to pull itself out of a seven-point halftime deficit.

But with the ballgame tied at 43-all with one minute and 30 seconds remaining in regulation, AuSable Valley’s Meghan Strong thwarted the Chiefs’ comeback hopes.

Strong’s go-ahead 3-pointer helped the 25th-ranked Patriots (10-2, 7-2) to a 48-45 win in Northern Basketball League play Thursday.

AuSable Valley outscored Saranac by a 5-2 margin in the final 90 seconds of play.

“Well, we had two or three key possessions,” Patriots coach Roger Long said. “Meghan’s three was big. We were able to maintain enough possession of the basketball in that last minute-30 to not give Saranac too many opportunities to get a chance to score.”

AuSable Valley jumped out to a 25-18 halftime lead, but Long said both teams struggled offensively in the first half.

“We average close to 60 points a game,” Long said. “I think they’re over 60 points a game, so 25 to 18 is low-scoring, especially since we beat them in the first game 68-64. It took them a little while to figure out our zone.”

The third quarter belonged to the Chiefs (11-3, 7-3), though.

Kayla Napper scored eight points in the third stanza alone, while Saranac utilized a 14-7 run to pull itself within striking distance.

“We played a little out of character in that first half,” Chiefs coach Tim Newell said. “I didn’t feel our guards did a real nice job controlling the tempo of the offense. We rushed things.

“We changed our defense and went to a different zone and kind of got settled in. This group, when they decide to settle in and trust the offense and trust each other, we do well. We get some good looks and some good opportunities.”

The two teams exchanged the lead three times, while tying the game on three occasions inside the first 6:30 of the fourth quarter.

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