“It’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.”
Those words, spoken by Union girls basketball Head Coach Grant Young, proved to be prophetic Wednesday.
In the third meeting of the season between his Lady ‘Cats and Washington, Adam Fischer’s Lady Jays emerged with their first victory of the series in the consolation semifinals of the Borgia Tournament, 52-45.
“Union’s one of those teams you don’t mind playing a lot because they’re so well coached,” Fischer said. “They play well. It’s never easy to beat a team three times in a season. We had a pretty good comeback after our slow start in the first quarter.”
Young said despite not being able to play in a third game during the tournament, this isn’t a setback.
“As a team we aren’t hitting the panic button,” Young said. “We have great kids who are ready to rebound from this two-game skid. We need Rachael (Bassett) to get healthy and it will take a team effort these last few weeks to finish our last four conference games with a chance for the Four Rivers Conference title.”
The Lady Jays (10-9) trailed for most of the game, but briefly took the lead near the end of the third quarter. Union (13-6) scratched back to lead after three quarters, 33-32, but the wheels fell of the Union wagon after that.
“We can’t have dry stretches scoring especially late in games,” Young said. “We played really scared in the third quarter, trying not to lose rather than trying to win.”
Fischer said Washington was able to adapt defensively.
“We’re running a little different defense,” Fischer said. “We’re been throwing some man in there to surprise a few teams in there. When you leave (Whitney) Vitt open seven times, she’s going to make four of five of them every time. That’s something we’re going to have to get better at.”
Fischer said the Lady Jays did what they needed to get back into the game.
“We got ourselves back into the game in the third quarter,” Fischer said. “We knew we had to take care of the ball. Union was running some traps at us and we did a great job of passing out of them and finding the open person every time. We were fortunate, we hit something like seven shots in a row.”
Washington netted the first 13 points of the fourth quarter to blow the game open and book their spot in Saturday’s 1 p.m. consolation game opposite Cardinal Ritter, an 86-3 winner over Sumner in the other consolation semifinal.
“We’re going to have to take care of the ball,” Fischer said. “They’re going to come out and put on pressure. When I saw them play Borgia Monday, they like to run and trap. They trap all over the floor. If we can take care of the ball and find the open girl, we should be OK. That’s something they do a good job at. They put on a lot of pressure and keep you from finding that open girl.”
In that game, Cardinal Ritter opened the game with a 38-0 first quarter to establish supremacy.
Ritter scored the first 54 points in the game and led 62-2 at the intermission.
Washington’s fourth-quarter run was keyed by junior Courtney Kedroski, who led all scorers with 24 points. She scored half of those points during the fourth quarter and Union had no answer.
“Courtney did shoot extremely well,” Fischer said. “She got herself into a little foul trouble but she didn’t let up. I told her that she needed to play defense. Her aggressiveness on the defensive end in the second half led to her knocking down some shots for us.”
Union did hit some three-point baskets in the final quarter, but that only helped Union cut down the deficit. Washington led comfortably and was able to hit free throws and baskets to keep the advantage. The closest Union could get was five points in the final 20 seconds.
Following Kedroski in the scoring column was senior Kaitlin Evans, who netted 10 points.
Junior Megan Bauche and freshman Paige Carpenter scored seven points apiece.
Senior Kirstie Leslie added four points.
Washington hit five three-point baskets to eight for Union. The Lady ‘Cats sank their long shots early in the game and went cold until they needed baskets to rally late in the fourth quarter.
“We’re a taller team than Union,” Fischer said. “That’s our strength against them. We didn’t do a good job using our strength in the first half. We’ve got to play to our strengths. I thought Kirstie Leslie, Kaitlin Evans and Helena Ballmann really played hard for us.”
Senior Whitney Vitt led Union with 14 points. Along with Kedroski, she was the only player to score in each quarter.
Sophomore Bethany Coons netted 11 points for Union, including a buzzer-beating three-point basket in the first quarter to make it 18-11 in favor of Union after eight minutes of action.
Senior Rachael Bassett fought a nagging back injury to score 10 points for Union.
Seniors Alyssa Coons and Abby Brack netted five points apiece for the Lady ‘Cats.
As is normally the case between Washington and Union, the game was extremely physical with both teams pushing extremely hard. Washington junior Alex Ready suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. Bassett aggravated her back injury and Alyssa Coons was hurt during the fourth quarter.
“I would be surprised if Alex is ready to play Saturday,” Fischer said. “The one thing I know is that she’s a tough kid. About two weeks ago, she hit her other ankle pretty good and she didn’t miss a game. This one seemed like it was a little worse.”