By James Kay
There is nothing like playoff basketball and the start to this year's postseason did not disappoint. RBHS went toe-to-toe with Comer High School, while Nazareth and LTHS went back and forth in an overtime thriller. Here is an overview of what happened in girls basketball last week.
RBHS tops Comer 60-49 to win regional
All season, Bulldogs' junior Brenna Loftus has carried the scoring load. Against Comer, it was more of the same from RBHS' all-time leading scorer.
Loftus and her 40 points versus Comer fueled her team to a regional championship on Feb. 20. On a night where Loftus was double and tripled teamed, everyone on RBHS stepped up.
"We say there are great players and then there's winners, and Brenna is someone who refuses to lose," said RBHS head coach Dallas Till. "She's the heart and soul of our team but we play team basketball and we certainly did that tonight."
Throughout the night, Comer tried to fluster the Bulldogs with their physicality while the Bulldogs' zone defense stunted the Catamounts on the offensive end. At the conclusion of the first half, RBHS was up 20-14. Loftus outscored Comer 18-14 by herself.
The second half began with Comer trying to put pressure on the Bulldogs with a lackadaisical front court press. RBHS took advantage and went on an 8-0 run to close out the third quarter with a 37-29 lead.
As the Bulldogs pulled away from the Catamounts, Comer's head coach Daryl Diddy, who vocally made his presence known from tipoff, yelled at RBHS' bench for most of the fourth quarter. At one point, Till and Diddy went back and forth before both received technical fouls.
"I need to be better," said Till. "It was definitely heated. I get it with a championship on the line and one goes home so I understand and respect that. He's coaching his kids hard, and I need to not look at that direction."
After the two coaches settled down, Comer went at the Bulldogs with hard fouls. Up 13 points with just over a minute left, Loftus cut to the rim and was fouled hard. Loftus went down holding her leg before sinking one of two free throws.
RBHS assistant coach Mark Ruge texted the Landmark on Sunday saying that Loftus is questionable for the Bulldogs' game on Feb. 25, which was played after the Landmark's press time.
"I'm not sure what is up with it," said Loftus after the game. "I got up from the trainer's table as the clock ran out thinking, 'I am not sitting on this table when this game is over,' So I will figure it out at some point."
Moving forward: After playing against a physical team like Comer, RBHS' Cassie Hines believes that this game will only help the Bulldogs continue to build on their successful season.
"We don't get a chance play teams like this," said Hines after the game. "Having a game like this was really good for us since it's a nice introduction to what we are going to see moving forward."
Nazareth buzzer-beater downs LTHS
The end of the Lions-Roadrunners' game was not without excitement.
Down 64-62 in the waning seconds of the game, Nazareth sophomore guard Melisa Hadzic caught a pass in the corner and drained a three to advance her team to the next round of the playoffs.
However, there were some questionable calls throughout the rest of the game that had some on LTHS' end question the performance of the referees. At one point late in the first half, the referees called a foul on LTHS' best player, Lily Courier, who was several feet away from the play.
She ended up fouling out with four minutes left in the fourth quarter after scoring 21 points in the game which proved to be costly for the Lions.
"Nazareth Academy is a great team and they fought hard for this win, but we feel there were moments where calls put us at a disadvantage," said LTHS' head coach Meghen Hutchens during a phone call with The Landmark on Feb. 23.
"When Lily was called for the foul and it was clear to us that Lily was not in contact with those involved in the play, we asked the refs to come together to discuss it and what they saw, and they refused to do it," Hutchens said. "At the end of the day, we all make mistakes, but the willingness to talk to the crew to correct the mistake is what we are most upset about."
A tough reality that LTHS faced heading into this game is how different the seeding would have been had Courier had been healthy all season. The Lions (19-10) were 3-5 before Courier came back from a sprained ankle she sustained in the opening minutes of the season.
The Lions ended up going 16-5 the rest of the way but ended up having to face a Nazareth team that had gone 63-7 over the last two years heading into this season.
Even with the tough loss against the Roadrunners, Hutchens believes the team can learn from the hard-fought defeat. The Lions are returning all five members of their backcourt despite losing senior Lily Courier, who will play for Lewis University next season.
"Our kids work extremely hard, so there's no doubt in my mind they are going to be ready for next year," said Hutchens. "We have a lot of the girls coming back, and I feel like we are going to be really strong. We are excited but it's still hard to get them to be excited right after a loss like that."