By Jeff Robison Flyer Correspondent
Hendricks County Flyer
---- — DANVILLE — Going into its daytime regional contest against Western Boone, the Tri-West girls’ basketball team knew it would be underdogs, having lost by 12 points in an earlier Sagamore Conferece game.
The Bruins pushed the Stars to their breaking point, but ultimately Tri-West fell 66-62 in a three-overtime thriller at Danville Community High School on Saturday.
The two squads were never separated by more than five points in a contest filled with plays that could have swung the decision to either team. But Western Boone finally claimed the last lead change when BayLee Mitchell hit a rebound put-back, giving the Stars a 63-62 lead with 1:20 remaining in the third overtime.
Stars forward Nicole Chance tacked on a pair of free throws with 14.9 seconds to increase the margin to three points, 65-62. Tri-West came out of its timeout looking for a 3-pointer to tie, but Karen Jones missed the attempt and Lexi Jobe was unable to save the rebound from going out of bounds.
Tired, disappointed, and proud of his team, Tri-West coach Brad Acton admitted even he enjoyed the dramatic ebb and flow the game delivered.
“Our kids played their hearts out, no regrets,” Acton said. “We knew Western Boone was an excellent team coming in. It is disappointing, but a bounce or two here or there, and (the win) could have gone the other way. We told our underclassmen to remember this game to make themselves better.”
Tri-West had its best chance to claim the victory in the second overtime. The Bruins started quick when Marisa Meyer hit a pair of free throws on the first possession, while Claire Johnson followed a WeBo turnover with a trey that put Tri-West up 52-47 for the Bruins’ biggest lead of the day.
But that lead evaporated quickly. Western Boone’s Emily Harrison scored on a drive to the basket, while Mitchell converted a rebound basket and free throw that also fouled Meyer out of the contest to tie the teams once more.
Johnson missed a chance to give Tri-West a lead at the end of the second overtime by missing the first of two free throws with 7.8 seconds left, leaving another deadlock at 56-56.
Still, attrition for fouls had started taking a toll on the Tri-West lineup. Starters Meyer and Madison Sprecher both fouled out in the second overtime, while a third starter, Katrina Headlee, left the contest in the third overtime.
“We had some combinations in at the end of the game that we haven’t even used in practice,” Acton said. “But our other kids stepped up and hung in there. Having three starters out made it tough.”
The third overtime saw the lead change five changes in all, with Mitchell causing the two biggest swings. Her 3-point shot with 1:34 to play put Western Boone up 61-60 and also fouled out Headlee. Johnson did return Tri-West to the lead with a pair of free throws, but the win was not meant to be for a Bruins team that was physically undermanned.
“Western Boone has a lot of good athletes and physical kids,” Acton said. “But we were aggressive and didn’t back down. We showed a lot of toughness, and didn’t let their physical play bother us as much as early in the season. We didn’t back down at any time in the game.”
Harrison paced Western Boone to victory by leading all scorers and rebounders with 22 and 17, respectively. Mitchell (16), Kaitlyn Miller (12), and Chance (10) gave the Stars more solid scoring. Jones paced Tri-West with 20 points and 12 boards, while Johnson provided 14 points.
Tri-West ends the year 14-7, losing just one senior in Meyer, who Acton saluted for her career.
“We came a long way in a short time,” Acton said. “At the end of the season, we were playing our best basketball. Marisa (Meyer) did a heck of job as our leader and only senior. That didn’t always show in the box score. Our kids really represented our school and our program well. We can go out of here with our heads held high.”