JOHNSONBURG – The Ramettes (2-3) held a 6-point lead late in the third quarter Monday against Cameron County (4-1) but inconsistent rebounding and foul lead to their demise, 46-42, against the visiting Lady Red Raiders.
Johnsonburg had built a 6-point lead with 2:45 on the clock as junior Brittany Watts, who paced all scorers with 15 points, scored a layup for the Ramettes' largest lead of the night.
Cameron County, however, quickly reversed their fortunes as junior Hayle Ramsey hit one free throw on their next possession; her second attempt missed but senior Kiley Lewis rebounded the ball and put it in to cut the lead to 33-30. An ill-timed pass on Johnsonburg's next possession turned the ball over and freshman Suzie Guisto was fouled on a successful layup try with five seconds on the clock; the foul was Watts' fourth of the game as Guisto tied the game at 33-all with her free throw.
"We forced a few bad passes there and I wanted to take some time of the clock then and hopefully take the lead into the fourth quarter but we forced a few things and missed some shots," said Johnsonburg head girls varsity basketball coach Mike Zilkofski. "[Cameron County] hit a couple 3-pointers to put themselves back in the game but Danie Jo [Dwyer] did a good job covering [junior] Brook Dunsmore and I thought we held our own inside on defense.
"[Cameron County] had some bigger girls inside but we held our own. Rebounding on the offensive side killed us."
Johnsonburg continued to get into foul trouble in the fourth quarter as two starters and the team's starting point guard fouled out of the game late.
A free throw from Kayla Zoschg put Cameron County in the driver's seat at 34-33 before sophomore Chelsea Benson nailed two free throws to retake the lead, 35-34.
Dwyer's fourth foul of the night came with 5:05 remaining as Dunsmore knotted the game at 35-35. After losing possession on the other side of the floor, Benson fouled out of the game as she sent Dunsmore to the line again. Dunsmore hit the first but missed the second as senior Kiley Lewis grabbed the rebound and outback for a 38-35 lead.
A Dwyer free throw on the other end closed the gap to 38-36 but more errant passes gave Cameron County an opening as the Lady Red Raiders scored back-to-back layups as Zoschg and Dunsmore cashed in for a 42-36 lead with 3:45 remaining in the game.
From there, Johnsonburg converted only one of their four free throws and needed a late 3-pointer from sophomore Kathryn Polaski with five seconds on the clock to close the gap to 46-42.
Down by six points late in the game, Dwyer fouled out with 1:38 on the clock and junior point guard Rhianon Fowler was ousted one minute later.
"They knew they had to foul and protect the starters with four fouls, and we lost three players because of that," Zilkofski said. "They're younger players as sophomores and they'll learn from this, really we all will, and we'll get ready for Smethport."
Cameron County held the lead for most of the first half and relied on the 3-pointer to gain an advantage early on; a Ramsey trey at the 4:33 mark of the second quarter put the visitors on top, 17-11. Cameron County senior Olivia Guisto knocked a long range shot in for a 20-14 lead midway through the second quarter before Ramsey followed with her second of the night one minute later for a 23-14 advantage.
The Ramettes battled back with four straight points from Watts and Fowler grabbed a steal and cashed in on a layup to pull within three points. Johnsonburg senior Kiana Myers hit a long jumper with two seconds remaining in the first half to go to the locker room down by one.
After Benson hit two free throws early in the third quarter, Watts cushioned the team's lead with back-to-back layups to take a 33-27 lead before Cameron County mounted their game-changing comeback.
"We got out-rebounded on the offensive end and they got too many shots off of missed foul shots, and that's just fundamental stuff, and we practice that every single day," Zilkofski said. "We just weren't boxing out and we have to play smarter. Toward the end of the game, [our players] should know that they have to foul to get the ball back and they didn't do that. Brittany [Watts] played an excellent game and Rhianon [Fowler] controlled the ball well.
"We got some shots but missed some key free throws, and we just gave up too many rebounds too many offensive rebounds and putbacks. We'll learn from it and move on."
At 2-3 on the year, Zilkofski said it is evident that his team has areas of the game to address.
"At this point in the season, we're still forcing too many bad passes and missing some of the key fundamental things like boxing out," Zilkofski said. "We lost to Bradford, they had a tough team, and Elk County Catholic, we could've beat them too but we need to play four quarters of basketball. I hope we learn from this and move on."
Johnsonburg is at Smethport (3-1) Wednesday.