Monday’s girls varsity basketball game at Hillsboro between the Hawks and Jefferson was a game of runs. Unfortunately for the home team, they just ran out of time in a 45-40 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays. It was the third consecutive strong performance by the Hawks, and despite the 3-16 record, head coach Joe Fehlker loves what he’s seeing from his team.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of this team for the improvements they’ve made this season,” Coach Fehlker pointed out. “I thought their resiliency and toughness really shone through tonight.”
The proof was the hustle after loose balls, the crashing of the offensive boards, and diving bodies all over the court. And despite a slow start for both teams, the action heated up quite quickly. Payton Bingman drained a three pointer with 1:30 to go in the first quarter to give the Hawks a 7-6 lead, but the Jays countered with a three to take a 9-7 lead after the first eight minutes.
The second quarter was one for the books. Hillsboro was scoreless for almost half of the quarter. Meanwhile, Jefferson was pouring it on, going on a 12-0 run and taking a 21-7 lead. Finally, with 4:37 to go, Elaina Readnour banked in a short jumper in the lane to give the Hawks their first points of the quarter. That started something. A couple baskets in the next minute pulled the home team to within eight points. Then Kenzie Baker scored with 2:08 to go, and Alicen Dietrich followed with a basket at the 1:39 mark, forcing a Blue Jay timeout with the Hawks trailing 21-17. The break couldn’t stop the Hawks’ momentum as Readnour scored on a put back with 1:11 to go, and Hillsboro was down just two points after going on a 12-0 run. The Hawks had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead, but the half ended with Jefferson on top 21-19.
Fehlker noted that the comeback is, again, proof of a maturing team. “Even after we got down early, we responded in a way that we haven’t been able to do consistently all season. I am extremely proud of our team for the fight they showed the entire night, but especially early on when they had us on the ropes.”
It didn’t take long for the Hawks to continue to build momentum in the third quarter. Zoe Wood hit two free throws to tie the game 21-21 with 6:02 remaining. After a Jefferson basket, Wood countered with one of her own to tie it again. Finally, with 5:10 to go, Baker banked one off the glass to give Hillsboro the lead, 25-23. Later, a basket by Readnour and two from Baker gave the Hawks a 31-26 lead with 1:32 to go in the quarter. But Jefferson dominated the last minute, scoring five points to send the game into the fourth quarter tied, 31-31.
The teams traded baskets at the start of the quarter with Readnour keeping the score tied 33-33, but Jefferson then went on a 6-0 run to go up 39-33. Readnour would hit three free throws to pull the Hawks to within 39-36, but the Blue Jays would go up 41-36 with time running out. Emma Hirstein hit a put-back shot with 59 seconds to go, and then Baker hit two free throws with 48 seconds remaining, and Hillsboro was down just 41-40. But the Hawks just couldn’t score again and dropped a five point decision.
“I thought this was a really exciting game and probably the hardest we have competed all season,” said Fehlker. “I thought we did a nice job defensively with our game plan, but Jefferson had several girls step up when they really needed them too, including knocking down some jump shots, making free throws and getting offensive rebounds.”
Baker, who didn’t start, led the Hawks with 12 points, playing an aggressive style and attacking the basket. She said she had some personal motivation in Monday night’s game. “I’ve had this rivalry with Laney Smith (from Jefferson) for a long time, so I look forward to playing against Jefferson. I think that’s what led to my aggressiveness. But I’ve also started to see the game in a different view, and if the team drives and is more aggressive, the defense tends to collapse and expand more.”
Readnour finished the night with 11 points. “Elaina handled the ball quite a bit tonight against their pressure and did well,” said Coach Fehlker. “She also converted several baskets and had some really nice steals.” Bingman scored five points, while Emma Kruse and Wood contributed four points apiece. Hirstein and Dietrich added two points each. Dietrich played well in the post. “I just try to focus on each play as it is happening and be aware of where the shot is coming from,” she said regarding her rebounding. “I try to gain position down low before a shot even goes up.”
Fehlker had praise for his other contributors as well. “Emma Hirstein did a great job in the post, gathering several rebounds, and she had a couple of nice post moves where the shots just wouldn’t quite fall. Emma Kruse gave us a great boost in the first half with her rebounds and put-backs. And Zoe and Payton played outstanding defensively.”
Today’s game against Fox, originally scheduled at Fox, will now be played at Hillsboro. The varsity game will begin at 7:00 p.m. The team will travel to Windsor tomorrow.