State run ends at foul line
Holton makes 10-of-10 free throws in final minutes to win basketball game
A game of evenly seeded and evenly matched teams went down to the wire Wednesday night in Salina during the first round of the 2008 Kansas State 4A Tournament. Fifth-seeded Holton was able to avenge its only loss of the season to beat fourth-seeded Basehor-Linwood 55-51. The Wildcats would need flawless crunch time free throw shooting to pull it off.
Holton went 10-for-10 in the last minute and a half from the free-throw line to end Basehor's season. BLHS was 20-for-23 total in the second half.
"When a team shoots 20-for-23 from the free-throw line in a high school game, you probably aren't going to win," coach Noah Simpson said. "They did a good job of attacking the basket and drawing fouls."
BLHS won an earlier contest between the teams at the tournament the school hosts, 38-30.
"I thought this game would be in the 30s," Simpson said, adding that the increased scoring was to no one's advantage and the game could have gone either way.
A nip-and-tuck first half featured eight lead changes. The Lady Bobcats attacked the Wildcats inside, leading to eight points for Cassie Lombardino and four for Courtney Hooks.
The tactic opened it up on the perimeter, where Brooke Sanders hit a pair of key three-pointers. With 5:30 left in the second, she hit a trey that put BLHS up 16-14. Two minutes later, another Sanders three pushed the Lady 'Cats lead to 20-16. BLHS took a 24-23 lead into halftime after Amber Jeannin hit a buzzer beating short jump shot.
A major momentum shift occurred at the end of the third quarter. With 50 seconds left and BLHS leading 35-33, Amber Jeannin hit Courtney Hooks on a breakaway. Hooks took two steps without dribbling and hit a lay-up but was called for traveling. Simpson exploded on the bench and was hit with a technical. Holton's Melissa Nelson hit both free throws. Instead of a 37-33 score going into the fourth, the game was tied 35-35.
Simpson was emotional and remorseful after the game.
"I wish I would have done a better job," Simpson said. "I should have kept my mouth shut. I apologized to the girls."
The Lady Bobcats got into foul trouble in the fourth. Sanders was charged with her fourth foul with 7:51 left in regulation. Simpson gambled and left her in the game. And then Ashley Jeannin received her fourth foul with 5:26 left. Simpson also rolled the dice and left her in the game. For the rest of the game BLHS would play with their starting backcourt one foul apiece from disqualification.
With 1:51 left and BLHS trailing 45-43, Bren Koontz hit the first free throw, missed the second, rebounded her own attempt and missed a running lay up, but Cassie Lombardino was able to lay it in to give BLHS the lead.
Whitney Degenhardt hit two free throws at the other end to reclaim the lead. Sanders would foul out of the game on the next possession after a Lady Bobcat turnover brought the ball the other way. Melissa Nelson hit both free throws and Holton led 49-46.
Michelle Chrisman missed a three that would have tied the game, and Crista Bechard appeared to ice it by also hitting her two attempts, making the score 51-46.
But Ashley Jeannin hit a three-pointer with 16.2 seconds left to pull within two, 51-49. Jeannin was called for a foul on the ensuing possession, her fifth. Nelson knocked down two more free throws to pull back up by four. But Holton fouled Amber Jeannin with nine seconds left. She hit both. Bechard continued the perfection at the line by being fouled and knocking down both. Lombardino missed a three at the other end and the game, as the season, was over.
Lombardino finished with 20 points on 9/17 shooting. She also had 11 rebounds. Sanders finished with 10 and two steals.
Simpson was proved prophetic, saying earlier in the week that he expected the team who turned the ball over least to win. BLHS had 17 turnovers to Holton's nine.
"I thought whoever took care of the ball the best and played the best defense would win," Simpson said. "I didn't expect them to take care of the ball that well."
Lombardino agreed that the turnovers were probably the difference in the game and said Holton shot well.
"When they kept hitting their free throws, it put pressure on us to get back on offense and answer," Lombardino said.
Simpson said there were "lots of tears" in the locker room. He said it had been a difficult four years for his six seniors.
"It was hard to get here," Simpson said. "I'm proud of them."
Lombardino said after the game that it wasn't easier to lose at state than in substate.
"It's definitely a letdown," Lombardino said. "But it was an awesome experience to play in the state tournament."
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