By Steve Robinson | February 16, 2019 - 10:47 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – From the opening tip, Normal Community High School’s girls’ basketball team appeared to be ready to race toward winning the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Bloomington High School Regional Title. The Lady Iron managed to do just that, outpacing Normal Community West, 58-39, to advance to the Sectional semifinal Monday night against Rock Island. That game, ironically, will be played at Normal West. Also, with this victory, NCHS managed to win the season over the Wildcats by a 3 wins-to-1 tally.

As a result of the win, NCHS advances to Sectionals which will be played at Normal Community West High School where they will face Rick Island High School. The Rocks got to the Sectional semi with a win 63-55 win over Moline.

Junior guard Maya Wong scored the first points of the game for NCHS (23-9 after this game) to begin the scoring and was followed by a deuce by West junior guard Olivia Demosthenes to tie the game at 2-all. Senior forward Cassi Kraft’s basket, followed by a trey by Wong pushed the Lady Iron up, 7-2, prompting Normal West head coach Corey Ostling to call timeout.

Two free throws by a fouled senior forward Ayanna Gibbs cut that margin, 7-4 before NCHS scored on back-to-back deuces by senior forward Abby Feit and sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson for an 11-4 advantage. One free throw by Wildcats freshman guard Averie Hernandez reduced that lead to 11-5 before another set of back-to-back baskets for the Lady Iron by Wong and Feit extended NCHS’ lead to 10, 15-5, with 50.8 seconds to go in the quarter. That deficit prompted another Wildcats timeout. Following that, fouled Wildcats senior forward Tresoir Newson sank 1-of-2 free throws and was followed by another bucket by Wong, helping increase NCHS’ lead, 17-6, going into the second quarter.

Sophomore guard Madison Feeney opened the second quarter with a trey and was followed by back-to-back unanswered deuces from junior guard Kylee Schneringer to push the Lady Iron up, 24-6, with 5:29 remaining the period. At this point, Normal West took another timeout to regroup, and managed to cut the lead to 24-8 on a basket by Demosthenes with 4:18 on the clock.

But from there, NCHS launched into a 6-0 run, with Schneringer hitting a deuce between two baskets by Feit, putting the Lady Iron up, 30-8, prompting another Normal West timeout with 2:57 until halftime. Back-to-back deuces by Gibbs and Demosthenes reduced NCHS’ lead, 30-12, before a free throw by NCHS’ Feit and a deuce for West by Feeney led to the Lady Iron owning a 31-14 halftime lead.

Wong opened the third quarter with a three-point play for NCHS, having scored and been fouled by West’s Newson, and sinking the free throw, giving the Lady Iron a 20-point advantage, 34-14 with 7:15 left in the quarter. Newson scored next cutting that lead to 34-16, but a trey by Schneringer followed by a Newson deuce gave NCHS a 37-18 lead, and prompted a timeout for West at the six minute mark in the quarter.

Two free throws by a fouled Craft put NCHS up 39-18 before the Wildcats tacked three straight unanswered buckets on the board from Newson, Gibbs, and Demosthenes, pulling Normal West (19-11) within 15, 39-24, causing the Lady Iron to take a time out with 3:11 left in the quarter. Following the time out, Normal West got one more basket from Gibbs at 2:03 to pull within 13, 39-26 before NCHS would close out the quarter on a 5-0 run with a basket by Oloffson and a three-point play from Schneringer which included a free throw. That gave NCHS a 44-26 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Newson opened the fourth quarter with a deuce to reduce NCHS’ lead to 44-28 with 7:47 left in the contest, but back-to-back scores, an Oloffson deuce and a trey by Feeney pushed the Lady Iron up, 49-28 at the 6:37 mark. A trey by West senior forward Jess Jacobs cut that lead to 49-31 with 6:32 left. But having been fouled by Jacobs in the next possession, Feit hit two free throws putting NCHS up by 20, 51-31, prompting the Wildcats to call time. A three-point play by Kraft and a deuce by freshman guard Karleigh Creasey put NCHS up 56-31, followed by a Lady Iron time out.

West’s Demosthenes and NCHS’ Feit swapped deuces leading to a 58-33 lead for the Lady Iron with 2:17 remaining, but the Wildcats closed out the scoring with Bozarth hitting a deuce at 1:48, a trey from Jacobs at 1:09, and a free throw from Demosthenes.

Schneringer and Feit led all scorers each pocketing 14 points. They were followed in double-figures for the Lady Iron by 12 from Wong. Demosthenes and Newson led West’s scorers, each scoring 11 points.

After the presentation of the regional championship plaque, Lady Iron players gathered with family members and posed for pictures with the plaque. NCHS senior shooting guard Katie Broad could be seen on the hardwood of Robert Frank Sports Complex on BHS’ campus receiving congratulatory hugs from family and friends who attended the contest. She said she was excited to have been part of the win and that when the team works together toward a win, “that’s when we seem to do our best.”

“I’m very excited about our going to Sectionals,” Oloffson said. She added when Normal West began a steady scoring pace in the second half, her team “just tried to stay relaxed the whole time and just play our game. I think we did a really good job of it.”

“We’re excited to come away with a win,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “We’re definitely excited to come away with a win and to do it against a crosstown rival as good as Normal West is.”

Although NCHS owned a large lead at the half, Mann said he knew the Wildcats would be resilient and come back from the deficit they had been handed by his team at half. “We just knew we’d be weathering that storm and that it would be coming at some point.”

“We wanted to compete,” explained Normal West’s Ostling afterward. “I told them at the half we couldn’t get all the points we needed all in one shot. We just did it little bit by little bit, doing things correctly, and then maybe, the ball starts falling in for us and we start a turnaround. The ball bounced around and went in a couple times for NCHS, and bounced around and didn’t go in for us. Sometimes, that’s how it goes.”

He added his team showed a lot of perseverance this season and times could have decided to fold, and yet didn’t. “They just kept battling and I’m proud of my girls,” Ostling concluded.

By Steve Robinson | February 12, 2019 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Didn’t we all start to think this was a distinct possibility?: That although the two Normal-based Unit 5 School District high schools have already seen their girls’ basketball teams play three times this season, with Normal Community High School holding a 2 games-to-1 edge, that the two sides could face each other one more time before the season was out with advancing to Sectionals on the line?

No doubt while that was in the back of our minds, none of us could predict how those two local teams would do in their individual Illinois High School Association Class 4A regional semifinal matchups held at Bloomington High School Tuesday night.

Second seed NCHS discarded 7th seed Danville to open the evening, 76-42. Fans of 3rd seed Normal Community West watched their favorite team outpace 5th seed Bradley-Bourbonnais, 47-35. As a result, the two local teams will meet for a fourth time this season. That showdown will take place at BHS Thursday night starting with a 7p.m. tipoff.

Normal West 47, Bradley-Bourbonnais 35: Normal West started hot right from the opening tip, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on a trio of deuces – two to start the game from junior guard Olivia Demosthenes and one from senior forward Tresoir Newson. That lead was extended to 10-5 on baskets by senior forward Anna Gibbs and Demosthenes, and became 13-7 on another Demosthenes deuce and a free throw from junior guard Jess Leftwich. But Bradley-Bourbonnais closed out the quarter with a deuce from junior forward Gaetana Davis, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to four, 13-9, entering the second quarter.

But the Wildcats opened next quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to baskets by Newson and senior guard Jess Jacobs, putting Normal West up, 17-9, prompting Boilermakers head coach Evan Tingley to call time with four minutes until the half. After the timeout, West continued the scoring strike in the form of two free throws from junior forward Rosh Webb, to increase her team’s lead to 10, 19-9, with 2:04 left. A layup by Davis cut West’s lead going into the half, 19-11.

West managed to double their score, 22-11, to open the third quarter thanks to a trey from senior guard Whitney Bozarth. Boilermakers senior guard Zoie Langlois countered with a jumper setting off an exchange between the two teams that pulled Bradley-Bourbonnais within six, 26-20 prompting the out-of-town team to call time with 3:52 left in the quarter. Following the timeout, a trey from Demosthenes followed by a Gibbs free throw pushed Normal West in front, 30-22, on the way to a 36-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Boilermakers would pull within eight twice more in the last quarter – 39-31 and 43-35 – before a trio of fouls would send three Normal West players to the free throw line for a combined 4-for-5 to finish achieving the victory.

Demosthenes was the lone Wildcats player in double-figures on the night with 14 points. Freshman guard Addison Lombardi and Langlois each pocketed 13 points for the Boilermakers on the night.

“That’s a very good team,” said Normal West head coach Corey Ostling in complimenting Bradley-Bourbonnais. He then pivoted to how his team performed, stating, “My team executed the scouting report better than they have all season long. They knew which player was going to do what, and it’s one thing to know what to do and another to do it, especially in a regional.”

“We had a slow second half, and we missed some layups, and in a 10-point game, layups really make a difference,” Tingley admitted afterward. “I thought we guarded well enough when we held them to 19 points in the half. Unfortunately, we only scored 11. Defensively, we battled all night. Offensively, we got some pretty good shots in the second half that didn’t fall for us.”

NCHS 76, Danville 42: NCHS went on a pair of scoring spurts in the first quarter – a 9-0 run an 8-0 run – which featured two treys from junior guard Maya Wong in the first quarter which helped push the Lady Iron to a 17-4 lead with 2:37 in the period. Only sophomore guard Erin Houpt’s trey at the 2:12 mark followed by baskets by senior forward Makala Gray and senior center Naomi Woods would push the Lady Vikings into double-digits, trailing 24-11, to start the second quarter.

A second quarter trey from Houpt for Danville, and a trey each from sophomore guard Madison Feeney and senior guard Katie Broad, topped off by two free throws by junior guard Jess Leftwich and two unanswered buckets by junior guard Kylee Schneringer sent the teams into the locker rooms at halftime with NCHS holding a commanding 45-19 lead.

Third quarter baskets for Danville spurred by an initial basket by Houpt helped close the gap slightly, 50-23, before the Lady Iron, on the strength of buckets by sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson, Schneringer, Wong, and senior forward Abby Feit bombarded the Lady Vikings defenders, extending their lead to 64-25 with 3:50 left in the quarter. After that timeout, deuces by Gray, freshman guard Nau’tika Conway, and freshman guard Tharija Rose helped close out the quarter although NCHS entered the fourth quarter owning a 66-34 lead.

Feit led all players in scoring with 21 points. She was followed in double-figures for NCHS by Wong with 14, Oloffson with 11, and 10 from Schneringer. Haupt was the only Danville player to achieve double-figures with 17 points.

“We had a pretty good night..can’t complain,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “They’re a tough team. They’re a little young and inexperienced, but they were going to bring everything that they have and we’re lucky to come away with the win that we got.

“We’ve got a young team and we’re still learning how to compete,” admitted Lady Vikings head coach Demetric Hightower. “In going up against Normal, we knew we’d up against a team that’s going to play hard. In the second half, we wanted to drive more. But in the second half, we drove a lot more to the basket. Normal wanted us to take shots they wanted us to take in the first half. The second half, we drove to the basket and we looked like a different team.”

By Steve Robinson | February 9, 2019 - 10:45 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – Springfield Lanphier High head basketball coach Blake Turner admitted his team is used to being at the top of the Central State Eight Conference, but this season has been different, due in part to having young players on a team that has been struggling to stay around .500 all season. The Lions managed to keep host University High at bay for most of the first quarter, but spent the remainder of the contest chasing the Pioneers, who won the contest, 73-60 before around 600 fans.

Junior guard Jason Snodgrass’ trey inside the game’s first minute put the Lions up, 3-0, but was quickly stifled by a trey from U-High junior guard Alex Wood followed by a deuce by Nate Torres, giving the Pioneers a fast 5-3 lead, but junior guard Larry Hemingway quickly tied the game with a layup at 5-5. Wood followed up with another trey giving the Pioneers an 8-5 lead.

But a deuce by Lions senior forward Karl Wright lit the fuse on a 9-0 run for the visitors which featured two free throws by Hemingway, a trey by Snodgrass, and deuce by senior forward Shain Chairs. That barrage forced U-High to call time, down 14-8 with 3:07 left in the quarter. A free throw by junior forward Joe Brown helped start U-High’s recovery, followed by a goaltending call against the Lions on a Torres shot, closing the Lions’ lead to 14-11. Wood closed out the quarter with a trey at the 1:07 mark followed by a deuce, which gave the Pioneers a 16-14 lead going into the second quarter.

A pair of 5-0 runs by the Pioneers highlighted the second quarter, the first of which began with two free throws by Torres. Torres was also intentionally fouled by Lions junior guard A. J. Frazier. In total, he went 3-for-4 and was followed by a deuce by junior guard Drew Wollenschlager, putting the Pioneers up by seven, 21-14. But a trey by Snodgrass closed the gap to 21-17 with six minutes left. Brown hit two more free throws for the Pioneers having been fouled by sophomore guard K.J. Dedrick, pushing the Pioneers up, 23-17.

A Snodgrass deuce helped pull Springfield Lanphier (11-13, 6-7 Central State Eight) within four, 23-19, but that was quickly followed by the Pioneers’ next 5-0 run which featured a deuce and free throw followed by another deuce all by Torres, extending U-High’s lead to nine, 28-19, prompting the Lions to call time out at the quarter’s 3:01 mark.

Following the timeout, Torres and Wood each sank baskets for U-High (17-7, 10-3 Central State Eight), extending the Pioneers’ advantage to 32-19 with 2:05 until halftime. Freshman forward Tye Banks’ deuce would be the Lions’ last points of the half, closing U-High’s lead, 32-21, before Pioneers junior guard Logan Christensen and Torres would each be fouled and combine for 2-for-4 from the line to push U-High’s lead, 34-21. Wollenschlager’s deuce would give U-High a 36-21 lead with 1:15 left. The two sides would go into halftime with a 36-23 Pioneers lead after Hemingway’s jumper closed the half.

Wollenschlager opened the third quarter with a trey at 7:46 pushing U-High up, 39-23, and that triggered a back-and-forth of baskets by Lanphier’s Wright, Torres for U-High and two unanswered deuces by Snodgrass before Lanphier called a 30 second timeout at the 6:01 mark, trailing by 12, 42-30. Coming out of the timeout, Hemingway and Banks hit back-to-back unanswered deuces, pulling the Lions within eight, 42-34, with 4:36 left in the quarter. Wood responded for the Pioneers hitting a deuce. That prompted Lanphier to call time again, down 44-34, at the 4:26 mark. Hemingway followed up with a one-man 5-0 run, a trey and two free throws, to pull his team within five, 44-39, at 3:28 in the quarter.

But an intentional foul committed by Chairs on U-High’s Wood leading to two free throws, followed by a deuce by Torres allowed the Pioneers to extend their lead to nine, 48-39, prompting another Lanphier timeout at 2:11 in the quarter. Hemingway went on another 5-0 run, including a trey, before freshman guard D. J. Starr’s jumper closed the quarter, with the Pioneers owning a 50-44 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Wright’s jumper seven seconds into the fourth quarter reduced U-High’s lead to four, 50-46, and prompted another Lanphier timeout. Coming out of that timeout, the game’s most intense period of scoring between the two sides took place starting with two free throws from a fouled Torres for U-High and two free throws for Lanphier from a fouled sophomore guard Maki Rose reduced the Pioneers’ lead, 52-48, with 7:20 left.

Wollenschlager’s deuce, two free throws and a trey by Wood helped push U-High in front of Lanphier, 59-48 with 6:12 left in the contest, but a trey by Banks shaved that lead to eight, 59-51. A deuce by Wollenschlager allowed the Pioneers to regain a 10-point lead, 61-51. A three-point play by Wright and a free throw by Morgan shaved U-High’s lead to six, 61-55 with 4:47 left, but two free shots by a fouled Hemingway put that lead back up, 63-55. A trey by Rose allowed Lanphier to come within five, 63-58.

Baskets by Starr and Torres again extended the lead to nine, 67-58 before Hemingway sank another basket pulling Lanphier within seven, 67-60, with 2:18 left prompting the visitors to take time out. But following that timeout, three Lanphier players, including Hemingway and Snodgrass, committed fouls sending Torres to the free throw line twice and Wood once. There the duo went a combined 6-for-6 leading to the final score.

Torres and Wood led the way for U-High in double-figures scoring 28 points and 24 points, respectfully. Hemingway’s 18 points led the charge for the Lions. He was followed in double-figures by Snodgrass’ 14 and 11 from Wright.

U-High head coach Andrew McDowell admitted that before this contest, his team’s free throw shooting “hasn’t been done very well at the end of games the last several games.” But he added, thanks to coaching by one of his assistants, Lester Hampton, the team had managed to improve from the charity stripe.

McDowell said his team is trying to learn to make adjustments when it encounters “aggressive pressure” from opponents. He added his team “needed this type of game to prepare us for the postseason.” He added he told his players to continue playing the way had all game during the fourth quarter when Lanphier was closing in, but to increase their intensity while doing that.

McDowell added Lanphier’s Wright didn’t suit up when the two teams met Jan. 8. “He’s an athletic difference maker,” McDowell said about Wright.

“U-High came out and jumped on us in the first half,” said Lanphier head coach Blake Turner. “I thought they were faster, quicker, more progressive than us in the first half. At halftime, I challenged the kids to come out more aggressive and play with a little more passion. At that point, it was not about Xs and Os. It was about competing.” Turner said he believed his players managed to match U-High’s intensity in the second half.

Pioneers Junior Varsity Wins, Too: U-High’s junior varsity team took on their counterparts in a contest prior to the varsity game, coming away with a 52-43 win.

By Steve Robinson | January 29, 2019 - 10:24 pm
Posted in Category: Sports, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – The boys’ championship at the 108th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament showed each team which got to the contest looked to have the right to be there, showing control in the half they commanded. But in the end, top seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley held overtook sixth seed El Paso Gridley for a 40-36 victory and the tourney title.

EPG senior forward Noah Smith led off the game with a bucket which GCMS quickly countered with baskets to open the contest at 2-0, but quickly fell behind 3-2 on a trey by senior guard Bryce Barnes. Junior forward Silas Steiner and senior guard Teron Fairchild doubled the Titans lead, 6-3 with 5:58 in the opening quarter, forcing GCMS head coach Ryan Tomkins to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, a trey by senior forward Caleb Bleich at 4:39 in the quarter, tied the game at 6-all. A foul committed by EPG senior guard Ryne Faulk sent Barnes to the free throw line where he sank one, putting the Falcons up, 7-6. But Titans senior guard Teron Fairchild countered with a trey, giving his team a two-point advantage, 9-7, at the 3:17 mark. Two free throws by Fairchild increased EPG’s lead, 11-7. But the half ended with EPG’s lead reduced to two, 11-9, after Bleich’s jumper with 56 seconds remaining.

Fairchild opened the second quarter for EPG (18-6) with back-to-back baskets – a trey and a deuce to extend his team’s lead, 16-9, at 5:30 left in the quarter. GCMS recovered with a basket from senior guard Connor Birky closing the lead to 16-11. But a Steiner bucket pushed EPG up, 18-11. But EPG junior forward Jack Weber’s foul sent Barnes to the free throw line where he hit both shots, narrowing EPG’s lead to five, 18-13.

EPG (18-6) responded with back-to-back unanswered deuces from senior forward Noah Smith and Faulk, increasing the Titans’ lead to nine, 22-13, prompting GCMS (20-2) to call for a timeout. Following GCMS’ regroup, Barnes hit a deuce with 35 seconds left in the half, but EPG held a 22-15 advantage.

Barnes hit a deuce to open the third quarter, closing EPG’s lead to five, 22-17, but that was brief as EPG added a trey from Fairchild and a deuce from Faulk to go up by 10, 27-17. Freehill hit two deuces to close the gap, reducing EPG’s lead to 27-21, but Fairchild helped push the Titans up again with a deuce, 29-21. When CGMS closed the gap to 29-23, GCMS called time to discuss strategy. After that timeout, Barnes hit a trey with 3:06 left to narrow EPG’s lead to three, 29-26. And from that point on, the contest became defensive in nature with no points scored until the period ended.

But it wasn’t until 6:35 in the fourth quarter when another basket was scored, courtesy of junior forward Jack Weber, putting EPG up, 33-26. A pair of free throws nudged GCMS within five, 33-28 with 6:28 left. A Fairchild free throw at 5:59 put EPG in front by six, 34-28, with 5:59 left.

Barnes hit a deuce to pull GCMS within four, 34-30, with 5:18 left, and that prompted EPG to call a timeout. In fact, once the boys were back on the court after that timeout, head coach Nathaniel Meiss called a second timeout with 4:50 on the clock. After that, Freehill hit his next score, reducing EPG’s lead, 34-30 with 4:44 left. A deuce by EPG’s Smith pushed the Titans further ahead, 36-32. But a deuce by Barnes made it a two-point game, 36-34 with 41.1 seconds left, at which point the Falcons called time.

Once out of the timeout, Barnes fouled an EPG player who missed a lone free throw and the Falcons took another timeout with 41.1 seconds remaining. Once out of the timeout, both defenses were on display until with 15.5 seconds left, Barnes hit a jumper to tie the game and was fouled by EPG’s Steiner in the process. Barnes completed the three-point play, giving GCMS a one-point advantage, 37-36. EPG took two timeouts – right after Barnes’ free throw, and again at 12.8 seconds.

With six seconds left, GCMS senior forward Ryland Holt fouled Steiner, who missed the free throw. EPG’s Weber fouled Holt with 4.5 seconds left, but before Holt to take his free shots, the Titans took a time out. After that, Holt sank one of the two, increasing GCMS’ lead to two, 38-36. The final score was achieved on a rebound shot by Barnes.

“The play we had in the final seconds was that the ball was going to go to Barnes,” explained Tompkins. He added that although the two teams had played a couple weeks ago, EPG gave his kids what they were expecting in terms of play. They’re a tremendous team. It was a battle up at their place two weeks ago and when you have that, you’re always leery to play the same team twice. It was a battle.”

“We had our opportunities, but I’m happy Barnes is graduating,” EPG head coach Nathaniel Meiss said smiling. ”We tried to be really patient offensively toward the end of the third quarter, and that’s something we try to do. I think we defended at a really high level.”

BLOOMINGTON – Being nervous in the face of attempting to win a championship is perfectly natural for any sports team. El Paso Gridley’s girls basketball team, seeded 7th and preparing to face top seed Eureka for the girls’ championship game title in the annual Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament, could be forgiven for some jitters prior to tipoff considering the opponent.

But although those pre-game jitters stretched into the first quarter making the Lady Titans’ task tougher, they managed a comeback only to fall by just four points to the top-seeded Lady Hornets, 41-37, before a crowd of roughly 2,500 fans at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus.

Only two Lady Titans – senior guard Jaycie Schertz and junior center Sierra Carr, respectfully – managed to score baskets in the first quarter, Carr’s bucket cutting Eureka’s lead to two very early in the quarter. But that was all the scoring the Lady Titans could muster in the period as Eureka senior guard Courtney Heffren responded with a basket that would be the first in a 6-0 run thanks to two back-to-back unanswered scores by senior guard Amy Pineda, which put the Lady Hornets up, 12-4, en route to an 18-4 lead to close out the first quarter.

Eureka’s Heffren and EPG junior guard Addison Benedict exchanged baskets to open the second quarter giving the Lady Hornets a 20-6 lead at 5:12 in the second quarter. Heffren would score twice more and add a free throw, increasing Eureka’s lead, 25-6, before EPG would close out the half on a run of their own thanks to freshman guard Jordyn Cannon’s bucket and free throw followed by Carr’s half-ending basket. The two sides went into the half with Eureka owning a 25-11.

Having established an idea of how the other side plays during the first half, the third quarter began with fouls and free throws, starting with Cannon going 1-for-2 at the line having been fouled by Eureka senior forward Lauren Ausmus. That closed Eureka’s lead, 25-12. But Ausmus went to the line herself sinking two shots after being fouled by Schertz, putting Eureka up, 27-12. Schertz got fouled almost as quickly by Lady Hornets senior guard Morgan Greene, and sank two free throws, closing Eureka’s lead, 27-15 with four minutes in the quarter.

Back-to-back unanswered treys after that from Benedict and senior guard Ashlyn Stone helped EPG come within six, 27-21 with 2:34 left in the quarter. The two treys forced Eureka head coach Jerry Prina to call for a time out. EPG would pull within three, 27-24, thanks to a free throw and a free throw by Stone, again prompting Prina to call another timeout with 10.8 second left in the quarter.

Heffren opened the fourth quarter with a deuce with 6:40 left in the contest and Carr countered for EPG to keep the Lady Titans within three, 29-26, followed by Farney and Ausmus hitting back-to-back unanswered deuces which extended the Lady Hornets’ lead, 33-26, with 5:30 left. Two free throws and a basket by Cannon followed by two free throws by Schertz gave EPG a 6-0 run and brought the Lady Titans as close as they would get on the evening – one point, 33-32 before a deuce by Ausmus would extend the Lady Hornets’ lead back to three, 35-32, at the game’s 3:24 mark. At that point, Lady Titans head coach Nate Ehrhardt called time out. Following the timeout, EPG’s Stone fouled Ausmus, who sank two free shots, increasing Eureka’s lead, 39-34 with 1:54 left.

Right after, Eureka junior guard Darby Leman fouled Cannon who missed both free throws. Eureka’s Greene, having been fouled by Stone, also missed her free throw try. EPG called time out with 38.6 seconds remaining. Eureka head coach Prina called time out, as well, with 34.9 seconds remaining.

Coming out of that time out, Stone fouled Eureka’s Ausmus, sending her to the free throw line where she hit both shots, adding to her team’s lead, 41-34, with 9 seconds remaining. But a trey from Stone with 1.9 seconds remaining would turn out to be the last shot on the night, giving the Lady Titans second place in the tournament.

Although there were no Lady Titans in double-figures, Carr led her team’s scoring with 9 points. She was followed by Stone, Cannon, and Benedict who each sank 7 points. Eureka’s Heffren had a game-high 17 points, followed by Ausmus’ 12.

“At the start of the second quarter, we just asked our girls to settle down,” Ehrhardt said. “They were just a little excited and nervous. We got a little careless with the ball in the first quarter. But once they settled into the game and taking their time being careful with the basketball, that’s when we gradually began to make strides, and Eureka started playing our kind of basketball instead of us playing their kind of basketball.”

As Eureka began to see EPG turn their game around, Ehrhardt said, his team could see EPG’s pressure was beginning to concern Eureka. “When we saw that happening, we just kept our foot down on the gas pedal and taking it at them.”

“EPG had some really fortunate loose ball bounces, but they never quit,” Eureka’s Prina said in commending the Lady Titans on their effort. “That’s what you expect from a team from El Paso Gridley is a team that never quits, a team that’s always going to compete, and we knew we had our hands full.”

The win pushed Eureka, currently first in Class 2A toward a 26-2 mark. The win was the team’s 14th straight win on the season. EPG, who also lost to Eureka in early January, saw their record drop to 12-11 after this contest.