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Huffman Scores 26 as Redbank Valley Holds Off Gritty Gremlins to Advance to D9 Class 3A Title Game

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — She can shoot 3-pointers. She can bang with the best of them under the glass. She can handle the ball. She can make down-court football passes like a seasoned veteran quarterback. She can step in the front of a pass and make a steal.

There’s little Alivia Huffman can’t do on the basketball court.

(Above, Alivia Huffman was named Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)

Huffman, a junior — there is no word for the position she plays for the Redbank Valley girls basketball team — scored 26 points to help Redbank Valley gut out a 49-39 win over gritty Karns City in the semifinals of the District 9 Class 3A playoffs at Brookville High School Friday night.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“Now that we have (freshman guard Mylee Harmon) controlling the offense a little bit, it allows Alivia to go down inside,” said Redbank Valley coach Chris Edmonds. “She’s a very strong girl. She’s embracing that playing style. Now we need to work on feeding her the ball and kicking it out to our shooters. That will come. We will work on it. We’re very excited where we’re at right now.”

And for good reason.

The Bulldogs (21-4) still haven’t lost to a District 9 opponent this season and beat Karns City for the third time this campaign.

It was by no means easy.

Karns City (13-10) played physical and Redbank matched it. What resulted was a slog for both teams.

“It’s playoff basketball,” Edmonds said.

The Gremlins hung close, trailing 13-11 after the first quarter.

Redbank led 24-16 with a little more than two minutes remaining in the second and it looked like the Bulldogs were going to do what the Bulldogs have done all season — pull away with a prodigious run — but Karns City closed the gap to five by the half.

Karns City coach Steve Andreassi said he was optimistic going into the break.

But Redbank Valley grew the lead to 12 midway through the third quarter and were up by as many as 18 midway through the fourth.

Time to relax — well, not so fast.

Karns City again chipped away and got the lead down to eight in the waning moments, but could get no closer.

“The girls have nothing to be ashamed of,” Andreassi said. “They played their hearts out.”

Senior Rossi McMillen in particular.

McMillen scored nine of her team-leading 15 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Gremlins within striking distance.

“She always plays her guts out. She plays with heart,” Andreassi said. “She has never, ever backed off. I have never coached a person, boy or girl, who played as hard as her on both ends of the court all the time. She never stops. She didn’t want to come out at the end of the game. I wanted to get her an ovation from the crowd for her career, and she said she wanted to play to the end of the game. That tells a story about her right there.”

McMillen is one of four seniors who have played since their freshman year, when Karns City won just four games.

“These four seniors have been through a lot,” Andreassi said, lips quivering and eyes tearing up. “They started at ground zero, you could say, playing as freshmen and just building and trying to get better every year and working their tails off. Some nights it was jail in terms of the offensive end. These four seniors have been with me since the third grade. I have a special attachment to them.”

The key for Redbank was detaching the ball from Karns City.

The Bulldogs’ defense shined, forcing 27 turnovers, which was a key factor in the outcome.

“Sometimes we don’t talk about those players, the Brooklyn (Edmonds), Claire (Clouse), (Ryleigh) Smathers and even Mylee pressuring the ball up top,” Edmonds said. “When we call for them to run around up top, they do put the pressure on. That allows us to stay in our 2-3 (zone).”

It also enables Huffman to do her damage.

Huffman has been particularly effective down the stretch this season. She had two big games in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference tournament, which the Bulldogs won, and came up huge again Friday.

She’s starting to find her groove in the post again.

“I’ve done it a few times throughout my years playing, but this year I’ve had to step up and play that role,” she said. “It’s been a big part me and the team and I know I have to work my best at it for us to go where we need to go.”

Where Redbank is going next is the District 9 Class 3A championship game against either Punxsutawney or Moniteau, which were scheduled to play Friday, but that game was moved to Monday at 7 p.m. at DuBois.

Last year, the Bulldogs fell short of playing for a district title.

Not this year.

“This is a new team with new girls,” Huffman said. “It’s a great experience to share with everybody on the team.”

“We had two goals,” Edmonds added. “The KSAC championship and the District 9 3A championship. We put ourselves in position tonight to play in that game, so we’re very excited.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.