Fourth-quarter letdown dooms Lady Lions

Heading into the final quarter last Thursday night of their Southern Buckeye Conference American Division showdown with Western Brown, the New Richmond girls basketball team was in control.

With 6-foot-5 center Josie Buckingham controlling the middle both offensively and defensively, the Lady Lions were in good position, up 11 points, to earn a conference win that would put them in position for a conference title with just over a week remaining in the regular season.

But thanks to clutch shooting both from the field and at the foul stripe from juniors Ty Henry and Kylie Garrett as well as an attacking pressure defense, Western Brown quickly erased their double digit deficit in the final quarter and held on for a thrilling, come-from-behind 50-46 victory that clinched a share of the SBC-American Division for the host Lady Broncos.

For as well as they played the first three quarters, the Lady Lions struggled late finding their composure against the attacking Lady Broncos.

“It was combination of things,” New Richmond coach Brad Hatfield said. “It was a combination of our kids playing real tight and not handling the ball real strong. (And) playing a little scared and not getting a few key foul calls here and there.”

Once Courtney Grogan finished a fast break layup off teammate’s Sarah Shoemaker’s defensive rebound and outlet near the end of the third quarter, the Lady Lions seemed in control up 37-26 with a quarter to play.

For about half of the final quarter it stayed that way.

Though Henry got Western Brown within four, 37-33, after she hit four free throws on back-to-back possessions with 4:25 left, the Lady Lions finally found some offense.

After stopping the Lady Broncos as they tried to cut into the lead again, Shoemaker scored the first New Richmond points of the final quarter on a 3-pointer with 3:40 left. The basket pushed the Lady Lions back out to a seven point lead, 40-33.

Garrett answered the 3-point basket with two free throws after being fouled on a drive to the hoop to cut the Western Brown deficit to five, 40-35.

With the Lady Broncos defense keeping the Lady Lions from finding the offensive consistency they had the first three quarters, Henry took advantage as she attacked the rim on the other end of the floor and hit two more free throws to bring Western Brown within three, 40-37, with 2:50 left.

Western Brown continued to control the game, taking a 45-43 lead with 1:14 remaining.

A Grogan 3-pointer got the Lady Lions within three, 49-46, with 16.2 seconds remaining but that was as close as the Lady Lions would get.

The combination of Henry and Garrett, who hit 17-18 free throws in the final quarter, would close the game out at the line as they made 7-8 at the charity stripe to seal the win and a share of the Lady Broncos fifth straight SBC-American Division title.

New Richmond enters the sectional tournament with a 15-4 record.