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Juniata Basketball Seniors Look To Finish Strong

(Posted February 17, 2006)

Katie O\'Brien is one of six basketball seniors who will play their final home game on Saturday. O\'Brien will be trying to help the Juniata women claim a conference postseason berth.

Huntingdon, PA - The Juniata College basketball teams will close out the 2005-06 regular season Saturday with a home doubleheader against Albright. The Juniata women will open play at 2 p.m. with the men's game to follow at 4 p.m. Both teams will also honor their seniors with ceremonies prior to the games.

With the one regular-season game remaining the Juniata women still find themselves in the mix for a postseason berth. The Eagles are 12-12 overall and 5-8 in the conference and are in a four-way tie for the final postseason spot. A victory over Albright on Saturday coupled with a Lebanon Valley victory over Susquehanna would put Juniata into the postseason for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Albright is also fighting for a postseason spot as the Lions are also 5-8 in conference. A victory over Juniata on Saturday along with an Elizabethtown loss would put the Lions into the postseason. Albright won the first meeting between these two teams this season as the Eagles struggled with their shooting in a 72-40 set-back.

Senior Katie O'Brien (South Western/Hanover) has closed her season playing some of the best basketball of her career. She has claimed back-to-back double-doubles in her previous two games, which included netting a career-high 26 points in a win over Lebanon Valley. O'Brien and fellow seniors Kristen Kirk (Newport/Newport) and Lesley Snoby (Johnstown/Johnstown) will all be recognized before the game. Kirk enters the contest after scoring 15 points against Susquehanna this past Tuesday, which leaves her 13 points shy of becoming the ninth 1,000-point scorer in the history of the women's basketball program. Along with the strong play of its seniors, the Eagles are still getting major contributions from sophomores Ali Meckey (Bishop Carroll/Ebensburg) and Jess Winemiller (Dallastown/York). Winemiller still leads the Eagles in scoring at 12.5 points per game. Meckey is second in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage, and has been particularly accurate at home where she has shot better than 60-percent from long range this season.

Albright comes into Saturday's game having dropped a conference game against Lebanon Valley last Tuesday and the Lions have earned victories in just one of their last six games. The Lions feature a young roster that includes just three upperclassmen and a lone senior. Freshman Annie McMahon leads the team in scoring at nearly 12 points per game and has also produced a team-high 40 steals. Jacquiline Hardwick is the Lions' top interior threat as she is averaging 10 points and more than seven rebounds per game. The team's trademark has been its defense this season as they are limiting foes to just 57 points per game, which ranks third in the conference.

The Juniata men's team is looking to close out the season on a positive note after dropping its previous four games, including a 72-60 contest to Susquehanna on Tuesday. Despite missing out on the conference postseason, the Eagles have already reached the 10-win plateau on the year as their record currently sits at 10-14 and 5-8 in the conference. It marks the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Greg Curley that Juniata has posted at least 10 wins, the best stretch the program has enjoyed since the late '80s and early '90s when the team reached 10 wins in five out of six seasons. Juniata won the previous meeting this season against Albright thanks to a 22-point effort from Aaron Chamberlain (Tussey Mountain/Wood) and 20 points from Tommy McConnell (Bishop Guilfoyle/Hollidaysburg).

McConnell along with seniors Jeff Byer (Conemaugh Twp./Davidsville) and Travis Boyd (Juniata Valley/Barree) will all be honored prior to the game. Along with helping Juniata contend for a conference postseason berth in each of their four seasons, the trio has played some of its best basketball in their final season. Boyd has scored in double figures in five of the last six games, and leads this year's team in rebounding and three-point shooting. McConnell has set a new career high in assists in a season with 92 while he has moved into third place in school history in career assists. In his first start of the season against Susquehanna Byer scored a season-high 15 points and grabbed a career-best nine rebounds. The trio has helped Juniata win 45 games over their careers and will try and add one more victory on Saturday.

Albright is the defending regular-season and postseason conference champion, and has already clinched a return berth in the postseason. They will be playing for seeding on Saturday as they could still claim the second seed and earn a home postseason game. Senior forward Trevor Deeter is one of the top low-post players in the conference as he leads the team in both points and rebounds. Junior point guard Matt Kieselowsky leads all Commonwealth players in assists and is also one of the team's best long-range shooters. The game will be a battle of strengths as Juniata is currently the top long-range shooting teams in the conference in both percentage and three pointers made, while Albright leads the conference in three-point field goal defense.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.