Salisbury Press

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZSalisbury’s Melena Koutch scored the game-winning basket against Saucon Valley with six seconds left to play. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZSalisbury’s Melena Koutch scored the game-winning basket against Saucon Valley with six seconds left to play.

Koutch hits game-winner as time expires

Thursday, January 31, 2019 by TODD KRESS tkress@tnonline.com in Sports

Head coach Dan Reichenbach had sophomore Melena Koutch, a regular starter, come off the bench last week against Saucon Valley after she missed school the day before when she was feeling under the weather.

But Koutch was on the court in the final seconds in a tie game. She came up with the biggest bucket when it mattered most.

Madison Bettuccio tipped Saucon Valley’s inbound pass with just seconds to play, and then it was two sophomores doing the rest. Sierra Rauch found Koutch leaking in transition for the game-winning layup as time expired, giving Salisbury (3-15 overall; 3-10 in Colonial League) a 41-39 victory over the Panthers last Thursday night.

“The thing I did like about tonight was they played with some passion,” Reichenbach said. “They cared about the game. They cared about winning or losing. They really wanted to win the game there at the end.”

The Panthers (1-17; 1-14) used a later spurt to overcome a 10-point deficit in the third quarter. Saucon Valley took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a rebound and put back from Olivia Williams.

The two teams would trade leads over the final 6:16, with neither squad leading by more than two points. After Bettuccio tied the game at 37, Quinn Wittman’s drive to the basket put Salisbury in front 39-37 late.

Saucon Valley tied the game moments later on a drive from Kiele Riefenstahl, who then stole Salisbury’s ensuing inbound pass with a chance to retake the lead.

“We drew two plays up at the end there,” said Reichenbach. “We had two turnovers in a row there where we didn’t execute. We were supposed to secure the ball in the backcourt, come down and set a screen for Quinn [Wittman] and have [Madison] Bettuccio underneath the basket. If Quinn gets to the basket, that’s great. If not, then she had Bettuccio to dish to. They tried to inbound it to the frontcourt and we turned it over.”

But with the game on the line, the Falcons forced Saucon Valley into its 17th turnover of the game. Koutch finished it with a layup on the other end to finish with nine points in the game.

“We panicked too many times on offense, and we had too many turnovers,” Reichenbach said. “We blew the seven-point lead at halftime because on offense we weren’t patient.”

Wittman scored nine of her game-high 13 points in the first quarter as Salisbury opened up an 11-9 advantage. Her rebound on defense and push the length of the court for a layup closed out the Falcons’ scoring in the opening frame.

Salisbury received a big second quarter from Rauch, who scored five points and hit a three-pointer that gave the Falcons their 22-15 lead at halftim.

The hosts led by as much as 10 points in the second half when Bettuccio scored off a Falcon miss early in the third quarter.

Rauch and Bettuccio each scored eight points to round out Salisbury’s scoring. Kramer led the Panthers with 11 points and Riefenstahl added 10.

Salisbury faces Palisades on Thursday. Game time is set for 7 p.m. The Falcons close out the regular season with games against Northwestern (Saturday) and Southern Lehigh (Tuesday, Feb. 5).