Lady Bruins battle to the end
SPRING VALLEY — Hall coach Brian Holman knew the St. Bede Lady Bruins wouldn’t just roll over and quit. And they didn’t.
The Lady Bruins scored the final four points of the third quarter and the first five points of the fourth quarter in a 9-0 run to cut an 11-point deficit to two.
But in the end, the clutch free throw shooting of sophomore guard Jaclyn Cinotte, who made all eight of her free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, including 4-4 in the final 22.4 seconds, lifted the Lady Devils to their fourth straight regional championship Thursday night at Red Devil Gymnasium.
“It means a lot that we were able to continue this. You take the floor and see the people that have come through here,” said Hall senior Gabby Englehaupt, who while she didn’t score, contributed a team-high 11 rebounds, “We have a lot of people to look up to, lot of people look up to us. It’s a big deal. It’s an honor to be able to do something like this.”
But they’re never easy, Holman said, especially this year, when they had a ‘litany” of things go wrong.
“Every one’s tough. Every one’s just a little bit different,” Holman said of the Lady Devils’ four regional championships. “I knew once Seneca lost to St. Bede, playing St. Bede for the third time. It’s not the third time, for some of them it’s the 10th time. With Tom (St. Bede coach McGunnigal), it’s the 15th time (going head to head). We haven’t changed anything. So they know everything. It’s just going to be a scrum you have to get through, and we did.
“It was well executed at the end, even though it wasn’t pretty. We got the shots to fall. Then we made free throws when we needed to.”
Hall last won four straight regionals from 2005-08.
The Lady Devils (20-8) advance to the Oregon Sectional to face Alleman (13-14) at 6 p.m. Monday. The Pioneers beat TRAC West champion Riverdale 42-29 for the Aledo Mercer County Regional championship Friday night.
“I feel good about the sectional, if we play like we have last couple days. I think it’s really starting to come together,” Englehaupt said. “People don’t think we have it (together), but we do.”
“Hopefully, we keep it up. Our goal is to win, and winning will take care of itself, and here we are today, regional champions,” Cinotte said.
Hall made a late 7-0 run in the second quarter, capped by a 3-pointer by junior Hanah Hart to take an 18-13 lead.
Hart added another trey early in the third quarter to give Hall a 22-13 lead and followed two free throws by Cinotte with a pair of her own to stretch Hall’s lead to 26-15 at the 2:56 mark, their biggest lead of the night.
Then the Lady Bruins (15-15) went to work. Junior Christine Senica scored on a putback and took a pass from senior point guard Maggie Sons for another hoop at :0.6 on the clock to make it 26-19 at quarter’s end.
Sons opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and passed ahead to Naomi Ochuba for another quick hoop and suddenly, the Lady Bruins closed within 26-24.
It was a similar comeback that carried the Lady Bruins to an overtime upset over Seneca in Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I’m thinking we should have gone down 11-0 in the first quarter and had more time for a comeback,” McGunnigal said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that situation. It takes something to kick it in, whether it’s fire, desire, you realize where you’re at. You’re so far back against the wall, whatever it might be. There’s a lot more work in with these guys than just meet the eyes.”
However, Sons picked up her fifth foul of the game, taking a seat on the bench with 3:22 to play. It also sent Cinotte to the charity stripe, who made the first two of eight she would hit in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the game.
Seneca hooped again for St. Bede with 1:31 left to play to make it 30-28.
After an exchange of jump ball possessions, Cinotte hit a pair of free throws to put Hall up 32-28 at 22.4. Cinotte added another pair of free throws with 1.7 left to clinch it.
“Hey, whatever it takes,” said Cinotte, who scored a game-high 18 points, going 12-14 from the free throw line. “Yeah, I like it, I guess. There is pressure, but you just have to focus and lock in and it will work.”
“Jaci stepped up and hit me big free throws. She’s our best free throw shooter. She’s a sophomore. That takes a lot to do that,” Holman said.
McGunnigal, who wears his emotions on his sleeves during games, had to momentarily walk away, becoming emotional when first starting to talk about his team.
“We’ve played with a no-quit attitude this whole week. Had a mindset and work ethic going on,” he said. “I think there’s a lot going on with this team than I realize as far as how connected they are, how together they are.
“That’s what makes this even tougher to swallow, not being able to continue to work with them and see what else we could have accomplished.”
The Lady Bruins coach received an emotional embrace by his mother, Mama Syb, who doubles as the team’s scorekeeper.
St. Bede went to Ochuba early and often to start the game, the 6-footer from Dalzell via Nigeria scoring three times inside in the first quarter. Carly Eustice hit a 3-pointer to break an 8-8 tie, but Bogatitus answered with a trey of her own to cut St. Bede’s lead to 11-10 at quarter’s end.
The Lady Bruins didn’t score again until an Ochuba basket at 3:05 of the second quarter, which was their only points of the frame.
Notes: Holman kept his focus on the game knowing his wife, Abby, was in the hospital ready to deliver their second child. He joked that the baby knew dad had a big time and was still in a holding pattern late Friday morning. … Hall’s celebration on the floor after the regional championship included several alumni who have contributed to past regional titles. Holman said it’s fun to see them here and talk to them. “They’ve worked hard in the past, and it’s nice to see how proud they are. The girls that have been here deserve to see it,” he said.
Hall 2A Regional
#6 Putnam County 47, #8 Indian Creek 31
#5 St. Bede 48, #10 Somonauk 42
#2 Hall 49, #6 Putnam County 21
#5 St. Bede 52, #3 Seneca 50 (OT)
#2 Hall 34, #5 St. Bede 29