---- — By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- Justine Seely insists she's 5-foot-11.
Whether it be in the game program or on her driver's license, the Benton senior wishes to be a shade under 6-feet tall.
Truth is she's on the plus side of 6 feet, but not so much that it ruins her argument. That truth speaks volumes because the soon-to-be three-time all-state center plays like she's 6-3.
Seely had 35 points and 26 rebounds in Wednesday's 57-50 win over Shamokin in a Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference tournament semifinal.
She scored 21 consecutive Tigers points across the third and fourth quarters, turning a one-point game into an eight-point lead with 2:40 to play.
Probably a quarter of her rebounds came off her own misses on the offensive end, but that simply shows how easily she toyed with the Indians underneath.
Seely had 14 first-half points, all but one in the second quarter. She also finished with eight steals and four blocks.
"We were kind of slow in the beginning," Seely said, "and we realized we had to pick it up because it was so close the whole entire game. We had to pick it up to gain the momentum."
Seely and the HAC-III champion Tigers (19-4) play Danville in Saturday's HAC title game, 6 p.m. at Williamsport's Magic Dome. The Ironmen (17-4) beat HAC-II champion Mount Carmel 58-53 in overtime in the opener.
Shamokin, which plays at Danville for the HAC-I title Friday, dropped to 12-10.
"We won the game Monday (at Milton to earn a place in the tournament) because we made our layups," said Indians coach Bill Callahan. "I bet we missed 40 shots within a foot of the bucket (Wednesday). We just didn't play well."
Seely had just the one first-quarter point, but senior guard Casey Gavin had seven, including a 3-pointer, and Mackenzie Yurko hit a trey for the Tigers' 11-5 lead.
"It's been an ongoing process to get the other girls to understand that they have to step up and help (Seely)," said Tigers coach Harry Schlichter, a former Benton standout whose older sister Regina was the program's last multiple-time all-stater before Seely. "With her being as good as she is, she gets a lot of double-teams, triple-teams and it opens it up for the other girls."
The Indians were 2-for-19 shooting in the first quarter, 10-of-38 in the half. Still, behind double-doubles from Kelsey Yacko (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Olivia Bonshock (15 and 13), the Indians forged a 31-all tie midway through the third quarter.
From there, though, Seely took over. She cashed in several of her steals, converted a trio of 3-point plays and followed up one miss after another until the Tigers led 53-45.
"She's definitely come a long way," said Schlichter. "She dribbles, shoots, she can pass it -- probably the best passer on the team; she's got excellent vision -- and defensively she's very good. She's really turned into an all-around player."