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Titan girls edged by Trojans to end season

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

TIPTON — There’s an old saying that close doesn’t count except in hand grenades and horseshoes, and unfortunately that was the case for the Class A No. 8 Tri High School girls basketball team in its Class A Regional 14 semifinal game against Tri-Central early Saturday afternoon at Tipton High School.

In a virtually-even contest on all fronts, the Titans and Trojans battled for 32 minutes before Tri-Central, the nearby team from Sharpsville, managed to squeeze out a 43-41 victory to end Tri’s season.

The Titans saw their 11-game winning streak snapped and bowed out of the state tournament with a 21-5 record.

“We told the girls coming in that this probably would be a two or three-point ballgame,” Tri Co-Coach Jeff Miller said afterward. “It would be a game where both teams would make runs and both would have to find ways to withstand them. The Sagarin ratings had us almost even and it came down to a few key possessions.”

The Trojans improved to 15-10 and moved on to Saturday night’s championship game to face Rockville, who squeaked past Southern Wells 48-46 in Saturday morning’s first semifinal. Tri-Central defeated the Rox 39-35 for the regional title and will play No. 1 Marquette Catholic in this Saturday’s Class A northern semi-state championship game at Valparaiso.

The parameters in the Tri vs. Tri-Central contest almost were identical. Both teams hit 15 shots from the field. Both teams were 9-of-15 from the free throw line. Both teams grabbed 23 rebounds. The Trojans had one more field goal attempt (38) and one more turnover (15) than did the Titans.

Therefore, the only true difference in this game was that Tri-Central buried four three-pointers to Tri’s two, and that accounted for the two-point difference in the final score.

The Titans got off to an extremely slow start offensively in the contest, and Tri-Central took advantage of it. Trojan senior Nicole Sharp drained a basket and then a pair of three-pointers which were countered by only a charity toss from Tri freshman Averi Phelps, and Tri-Central had an 8-1 lead with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter.

“She did a nice job,” Miller said of Sharp. “We lost track of her early in the first quarter and she took advantage of it. We did a better job of rotating out on her after that, but those threes were huge.”

But Payton Moore swished a couple free throws, Auburn Harvey another, and Moore and Lauren Bouslog added buckets for a 7-0 Tri run that knotted things up at 8-all with 38 seconds left in the period.

The Trojans’ Jaide Cassity hit a basket, but Bouslog answered at the other end, and the two teams were deadlocked at 10-all after one.

Both teams had trouble putting the ball through the hoop in a low-scoring second quarter. Each team turned the ball over five times in the frame.

No one scored in the second period until Tri-Central’s Sarah Quesada notched a bucket with 4:53 remaining in the stanza. Phelps scored a close-in basket, Moore buried a pair of charity tosses, and Bouslog scored a bucket for a 6-0 Titan run and 16-12 lead 3:02 before halftime.

No one scored for over a minute until Sharp drained her third shot from beyond the arc with 1:37 left in the first half, and Tri had a 16-15 advantage at intermission.

The Trojans shot 6-of-17 from the floor (35.3 percent) and missed both of their free throws in the opening 16 minutes. The Titans were chillier from the field in the opening half at 5-of-17 (29.4 percent), but made up for it some by canning 6-of-8 charity tosses.

Tri-Central turned the ball over 10 times to Tri’s seven in the first half.

A Moore bucket put the Titans up 18-15 14 seconds into the third quarter. Trojan freshman Kenadie Fernung in-bounded the ball off Moore’s leg, retrieved it, and scored a close-in bucket 82 seconds later to pull her team to within 18-17.

A Bouslog bucket, a three-pointer from Harvey, and a Moore basket completed a 7-0 Tri run, giving it a 25-17 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third period. Tri-Central called timeout to the roar of the large Titan crowd in attendance.

The brief break did the Trojans a world of good. Emily Richard sank two charity tosses and Ashley Schmidt and Quesada tallied a pair of baskets apiece for a 10-0 Tri-Central run and 27-25 lead with 2:15 remaining in the quarter.

“We did a great job in our run and getting the eight-point lead,” Miller stated. “But then they responded immediately with their 10-point run, and it was a ballgame again.”

Bayleigh Appleby and Phelps then then countered with buckets 30 seconds apart, and Tri led 29-27 after three.

Quesada buried a three-pointer 55 seconds into the fourth quarter to put the Trojans up 30-29, but Moore did the same at the 6:07 mark of the period to restore a 32-30 advantage to the Titans.

Richard and Phelps exchanged buckets 44 seconds apart and Tri led 34-32 with 4:45 left. Tri-Central called timeout with 3:36 remaining and Cassity swished two free throws 15 seconds later to even things at 34-all.

Moore hit the second of two charity tosses at the 2:34 mark and then Bouslog hit her fifth basket to put the Titans up 37-34. Cassity came down and nailed a bucket to trim the lead to 37-36 and the Trojans called timeout with 1:48 left to play in the game.

Tri turned the ball over and Richard was fouled with 1:26 remaining. Richard missed both free throws, but Quesada rebounded the second miss and put the ball in the basket for a 38-37 Trojan lead. The Titans called timeout with 1:19 left in the contest.

“We had a couple turnovers at crucial times,” Miller explained, “and missing a block-out and giving up an offensive rebound and a bucket there really came back to haunt us.”

Tri turned the ball over again, Sharp was fouled, and she drained the two free throws for a 40-37 Tri-Central lead with a minute left to play. Moore scored at the other end with 46 seconds remaining to pull her team to within 40-39.

The Trojans played keep-away with the ball until Sharp was fouled with 12.9 seconds left. Again, she sank the pair of charity tosses, boosting the Tri-Central advantage to 42-39. The Trojans called timeout to set their defense.

After the short break, Tri brought the ball down the floor and Appleby launched a trey from the right wing. It missed, but she was fouled in the process. Appleby hit the first free throw, missed the second, and made the third. The Titans were down 42-41 with a mere five seconds left.

Tri-Central threw a long in-bounds pass to Richard, who was fouled with 2.3 seconds left. Richard hit the first free throw for a 43-41 lead and missed the second. Moore rebounded the ball and got it to Maddie Burchett, whose shot before the buzzer was partially blocked and fell short as the game ended.

Both teams shot much better from the field in the second half. The Trojans went 9-for-20 from the floor to finish the game with 39.5 percent marksmanship. The Titans hit 10-of-20 from the field in the second half to finish the contest with 40.5 percent accuracy.

Had Tri done just a bit better from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, it might have won. The Titans were just 3-of-7 from the charity stripe in the final frame compared to 9-for-13 in the same stanza for Tri-Central.

Sharp led the Trojans in scoring with 15 points followed by 11 from Quesada. Richard and Quesada led Tri-Central in rebounds with five apiece.

Seniors Moore and Bouslog led Tri in their final game in a Titan basketball uniform. Moore had game highs of 16 points and eight rebounds while Bouslog scored 10 points and grabbed four boards. Phelps scored seven points and corralled six caroms.

“Payton and Lauren really did a good job after we had some injuries and dismissals around the first of the year,” Miller added. “They helped rally their teammates and carried the team on their shoulders. We’ll really miss them.”

Tri-Central 43, Tri 41

TRI-CENTRAL (43)

Sharp 4-5 4-4 15, Fernung 1-3 0-2 2, Henderson 0-1 0-0 0, Richard 1-8 3-7 5, Schmidt 2-5 0-0 4, Robison 0-2 0-0 0, Quesada 5-12 0-0 11, Cassity 2-2 2-2 6. Totals 15-38 9-15 43.

TRI (41)

Burchett 0-3 0-2 0, Bouslog 5-9 0-0 10, Harvey 1-5 1-2 4, Moore 5-12 5-6 16, Phelps 3-6 1-2 7, Appleby 1-4 2-3 4, Hawk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-37 9-15 41.

Tri-Central 10 5 12 16 — 43

Tri 10 6 13 12 — 41

3-point goals – Tri-Central 4 (Sharp 3, Quesada), Tri 2 (Harvey, Moore). Rebounds – Tri-Central 23 (Richard 5, Quesada 5), Tri 23 (Moore 8, Phelps 6, Bouslog 4). Total fouls – Tri-Central 13, Tri 17. Turnovers – Tri-Central 15, Tri 14. Fouled out – Harvey. Records – Tri-Central 15-10, Tri 21-5.