BasketballBLOOMINGTON – University High School’s girls’ basketball team went from a semifinal double overtime loss to Morton Dec. 29 into a chance at third place within the Large School Girls bracket Dec. 30 at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. In their final game of the tourney, the 6th seed Pioneers faced 5th seed Rochester.

Beating Rochester in this final game of the tourney would put the Pioneers back on a winning course after starting the season going 11-0 before falling to the tourney Large School Girls bracket’s number two seed, Morton, in double overtime, 42-39.

But the Pioneers were only able to keep pace with the Rockets in the third place game for a little more than half of the contest before dropping a 47-40 decision as a crowd of roughly 300 watched at Shirk Center. The loss left the Pioneers facing a two-game skid while claiming fourth place for the bracket.

U-High PioneersAfter a deuce by Madison Faulkner to give Rochester a 2-0 lead, U-High (11-2) went up 4-2 on a deuce and two free throws from forward Raven Hughes with 4:48 to go in the opening quarter. But a quick trey by Nicole Robinson followed by a deuce by Faulkner put Rochester up, 7-4. Hughes responded with a deuce at 2:08 to cut that lead, 7-6. Jessica Baker’s deuce with 53.7 seconds left put the Pioneers up, 8-7. But Faulkner’s next basket allowed the Rockets to blast into the second quarter with a 9-8 lead.

A basket by Jasmayne Lawrence followed by two free throws by Hughes to start the second quarter pushed U-High up, 12-9 at the 5:56 mark. But Rochester’s Angela Perry sank a trey at 4:06 which tied the game, 12-all. A deuce by Pioneers’ Addy Loeffler and a trey by Hughes sandwiched a basket by Perry helping U-High go up, 17-14 at 3:06 in the quarter. Faulkner hit two free throws to put Rochester up, 18-17 at the 2:07 mark. It was followed by a trey by Hughes which put U-High up, 20-18, and Rochester’s Aubrey Magro hit 1-of-2 free throws to slice the Pioneers’ halftime lead to 20-19.

Two free throws by Lawrence were sandwiched between a deuce and a trey from the Rockets which allowed Rochester (12-3) to take a 24-22 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter. Lawrence’s jumper at 5:14 tied the game at 24-all. Rochester’s Lyric Boone and U-High’s Loeffler exchanged deuces after that tying the game at 26-26..Perry and Boone hit back-to-back unanswered deuces after that, giving Rochester a 30-26 lead with 3:15 left in the quarter.

A Hughes jumper pushed the Pioneers within two, 30-28, before back-to-back deuces by Faulkner and Havilyn Dulin pushed Rochester ahead 34-28 with 14 seconds to go. Four seconds later, Hughes hit one of a pair of free throws to cut the Rockets’ lead, 34-29.

Back-to-back unanswered baskets by Boone gave Rochester a fast fourth quarter start and Rochester its biggest lead to that point, prompting U-High head coach Laura Sellers to call a timeout with 6:40 to go in the contest.

From there, a three-point play that included one free throw by Hughes pushed the Pioneers within four, 38-34, with 5:17 remaining.

statefarmholidayclassic.gifPerry’s basket at 3:51 stopped U-High’s surge, keeping the Rockets in front, 40-34. Back-to-back buckets by Amber Nanni and Loeffler sliced that lead to two, 40-38 at the 2:25 mark before Dulin’s next deuce 10 seconds later gave the Rockets a 42-38 lead, where Rochester head coach J. R. Boudouris took a timeout.

Following that timeout, Pioneers fouls sent three separate Rockets players to the free throw line, including Dulin. Those free throws finished out the winning effort for Rochester, but U-High got a late second basket from Nanni for the final score.

Perry and Faulkner led Rochester’s scoring effort with 16 and 10 points, respectfully. Hughes was U-High’s lone player who achieved double-digits, with 22.

“I thought they played more zone coverage against us today than they have in the past,” said Boudouris, referring to the Pioneers’ effort. “We expected that though.”

Sellers said her squad played four really good teams in this year’s tournament, but that against the Rockets, “We hit a wall.”

“I thought they were going to bury us in the fourth quarter, but we cut it to two points once. We just ran out of energy,” Sellers concluded.

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