On Tuesday, Jan. 7, Ithaca girls basketball hosted a Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC) matchup against a 6-3 Horseheads team, who had only lost to state-ranked teams at the time. With Horseheads going into the third quarter up by 12, it seemed as if they’d continue their dominance of unranked teams.
The tables turned in the second half, with Ithaca flipping a 12-point deficit into a 10-point victory by a score of 53-43. Leading the way was freshman guard Mia Little, who scored all of her team-leading 13 points in the second half.
Early on, Horseheads, led by Quinnipiac commit Jillian Casey, displayed an intense defensive style that gave Ithaca fits. The Little Red could not quite settle in during the first 16 minutes of the game. They looked like a completely different team in the second half, winning seemingly all the physical battles on offense and defense.
Little discussed what her head coach (and father), Tim Little, told the team at halftime to get Ithaca to flip the switch.
“He just told us that we know all their plays and that we know what we’re doing,” Mia Little said. “We just had to step up our game and we did. We just put [the first half] behind us.”
Little herself went through a transformation at halftime. She struggled to get going in the first two quarters and was held off the scoreboard. The freshman came out of the locker room after halftime with a fire under her and scored 10 points in the third quarter to lead the comeback charge.
“I realized I was not playing my best in the first half,” Little said. “So, I went in the locker room, and after we talked with the coaches, I told myself, ‘It’s a new game. Just play your best and don’t worry about the first half.’”
In addition to getting her mind in the right space, Little said she was more patient in the second half and did not want to force shots like she had in the first two quarters. That was the recipe to a third quarter in which the Little Red outscored the Blue Raiders 23-8 to completely turn the game around.
Little said that third quarter is exactly what she wants to see out of herself and her teammates for the entirety of games moving forward. One of those key teammates was Ava Thomas, the tallest player on the Little Red, whose tight defense on Casey helped shut down the Blue Raiders offense in the second half.
“Ava has a big impact on this team,” Little said. “She’s our only post player. It’s great to have her on the team, and I love playing with her.”
Little comes from a basketball family. As mentioned earlier, she’s coached by her father, Tim Little, for Ithaca. Mia’s mother, Samantha Little, is the athletic director of Ithaca High School and was a standout player for Division I Niagara University, being elected into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1999. With Mia being a freshman starter, she looks to be a key player for Ithaca for years to come.
Three players scored in double-figures for Ithaca. Georgia Haverlock, a Roberts Wesleyan commit, and Little led the way with 13 points apiece. Following them was sophomore Ava Thomas with 12. On the other side, Casey, an all-state selection last year, led both teams with 19 points.
Unfortunately, that success did not carry over into Thursday’s matchup with Elmira. The Little Red took a tough 69-37 loss to the 12th-ranked team in the state. It was their first loss to a conference opponent this season in six such games.
The defense of the Express was suffocating for the Little Red, not allowing a single player to score in double digits. Haverlock and Kyaija Stewart were the leading scorers for Ithaca, each with seven points. Senior Kiara Fisher filled the stat sheet for the Express, scoring a team leading 15 points and adding 10 assists to pull off a double-double.
Similar to the Horseheads game, Ithaca was pressured defensively early. The Little Red succumbed to the tight defense, turning the ball over 12 times in the first quarter alone. This led to a 44-23 halftime lead for Elmira that was far too large for Ithaca to overcome as they did on Tuesday.
STAC play for the 6-2 Ithaca Little Red continues on Thursday, Jan. 16, at home against Maine-Endwell. With their only two losses this season coming in their last four games, this is a great opportunity for Ithaca to get back on track.
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