Holton girls' strong defensive push not enough to take down Jeff West
As well as everything went for the Holton girls on offense in Friday’s sub-state semifinal game, things quickly turned sour for the Wildcats in Saturday’s championship game against Jeff West.
The Wildcats still flashed that trademark defensive intensity, which kept the team in the game in the second half, but HHS fell short in the end as Jeff West picked up a 35-26 victory to advance to the 4A-DII state tournament.
“When the ball goes in the hole, it’s an easy game. When it doesn’t go in the hole, it’s a hard game. It’s pretty simple,” HHS coach Jon Holliday said. “When you don’t shoot it very good and you don’t take advantage of those opportunities it’s just an uphill battle and it was Saturday night.”
Right away, the Wildcats got themselves into foul trouble with seven fouls in the first seven minutes of the game and while the Wildcats would hold the Tiger forwards to nine combined points in the championship game, the free throws the team gave up did not help its cause.
Also, while Jeff West’s forwards may not have been scoring, they were dominating the boards and that with the foul situation made for a dangerous combination.
“Two things you can’t do with that team; you can’t put them at the foul line and you can’t give up offensive boards and especially in the first half we did a lot of that,” Holliday said.
Holton also couldn’t replicate a formula that worked in its favor in a recent come-from-behind victory at Jeff West just over two weeks ago.
In that game, the Wildcats got the Tigers’ guards out of position and got the ball out of their hands, but Danielle Slimmer hit an early three for Jeff West on Saturday and Faith Becker had another strong game, while Mary Broxterman had a put back to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter that gave the Tigers a 17-6 lead.
While Holton quickly swung the free throw battle in its favor, making six of 10 in the second quarter, the Wildcats couldn’t gain any ground and still trailed by 11, 28-17, at the half.
As Holliday put it, the Wildcats had a lot to talk about at halftime and he credited his players for making some quick adjustments on the defensive end that got Holton right back in the game in the third quarter.
Holton held Jeff West scoreless in the third period and a lot of that stemmed from a more aggressive mentality, something forward Mackenzie Moore embodied in the second half.
Moore anchored the interior defense for Holton in the second half and collected two huge offensive rebounds late in the quarter and made three of four free throws to cut the deficit to six, 28-22, heading into the fourth quarter.
“Mac played her tail off Saturday night. She shot the ball pretty well. She was aggressive going to the boards,” Holliday said. “She’s got a lot of hats to wear defensively and she’s done a great job. She’s become a little more physical, a little stronger and she finished some plays.”
Moore’s efforts also helped get one of the Tigers’ posts, Mariah Murdie, to foul out in a span of 30 seconds in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats almost completely mirrored a stretch from Friday’s game against Atchison, forcing four straight turnovers by the Tigers. The only difference was that Holton could convert that to just two points on Saturday instead of 10 points.
That kept HHS in striking distance though, and Moore came through with a big jumper at the three-minute mark that got the Wildcats within four points and forced the Tigers to call a timeout.
“I thought, 'boy, we’re right where we need to be,’ with about three minutes to go and down four. I thought. ‘here’s our chance, here’s our opportunity,’ and it just didn’t materialize,” Holliday said.
Holliday worked his offensive and defensive substitutions from the start of the fourth quarter and while it worked for Holton on the defensive end the team still struggled to hit shots late.
Trailing by five with 50 seconds left, the Wildcats were forced to heave threes to catch-up, but just couldn’t convert and fell in the end despite holding Jeff West to seven points in the entire second half.
It’s a bittersweet end to the season, with the Wildcats finishing 13-9 overall, and while Holliday noted he never has the words for that locker room after a final loss, he did highlight the potential the Wildcats have shown in spurts and how that could pay off next season.
“We have times where we’ve became a very good basketball team,” Holliday said. “We just have to build on that and figure out what we did to make that happen and not have so many down times when things aren’t going your way.”
March 7, 2015
HHS: Tanking 3 (1) 2-2 9, Moore 2 3-5 7, A. Weilert 2 2-2 6, Boswell 0 2-2 2, Thompson 1 0-0 2, T. Weilert 0 0-1 0. Totals- 8 (1) 9-12 26.
JW: Metzger 2 (1) 4-6 9, Brees 3 1-4 7, Becker 2 3-6 7, Slimmer 2 (1) 0-0 5, Broxterman 1 3-4 5, Murdie 1 0-0 2, Garza 0 0-2 0. Totals- 11 (2) 11-22 35.
Rebounding: HHS- 23 (Moore 7, Snepp 3, Sweet 3, Boswell 3); JW- 31 (Brees 7, Murdie 7).
Assists: HHS- 5 (Boswell 2); JW- 5 (Becker 4).
Turnovers: HHS- 7; JW- 19.