BY JOHN DUBOIS
It is often said that its hard to defeat a good team three times in a season but Tuesday night, the second seeded Georgetown-Ridge Farm Lady Buffaloes faced the unique challenge of needing to defeat an opponent for the fourth time in a season when they faced the third-seeded Westville Lady Tigers in IHSA Class 2A regional semifinal action at Westville.
The Buffaloes won big against the Tigers at home and at the Vermilion County tournament, but the previous meeting between the two teams at Westville was a one point game decided in the final seconds and it was another close contest Tuesday as the Buffaloes held on for a 50-46 win to advance to their first regional final since 1991.
The Buffaloes never trailed and were led by a game high 20 points from Brittany Hay with Callan Hall adding 15 points. It was the ninth meeting overall between the two teams in the last two seasons.
“We have seen them a lot which helps us to know what to expect, but it of course helps them to,” said Georgetown-Ridge Farm coach Michelle Brooks. “Winning the first three games against Westville this season we knew they would give us everything they had and they never gave up or went away.”
Sparked by six points from Hay, the Buffaloes got out to an 8-0 start and led 15-6 at the end of the first quarter.
“The slow start was the difference in the game,” said Westville coach Mike Chandler. “We had a couple of early defensive breakdowns that they scored off of and we were not executing well, but we were still in the game. Most of the games we have played with Georgetown over the last two years have been absolute barn burners that could have gone either way.”
The Buffaloes came into the game focused on getting off to a fast start.
“We talked a lot about getting off to a fast start after the slow start we had in our final regular season game where we scored four points in the first quarter,” said Brooks. “We changed our press around a little and that was a key. We knew it would be a tough game here after the last time we played them in Westville and knew a fast start would be important for us.”
The Buffaloes would open a 13-point lead early in the second quarter and took a 26-14 advantage into halftime.
“We were still not executing well in the second quarter,” Chandler said. “That put us in the twelve point hole.”
Hay would score 14 of her points in the first half.
“Brittany got off to a fast start tonight, but that isn’t necessary for her to give us a spark in a game,” Brooks said. “She doesn’t have to score a lot of points or take the big shots to be a factor. I have been looking at a lot of film lately and Brittany is always playing defense both on and off the ball. She plays with a lot of heart and never gives up in a game.”
The Buffaloes would build their biggest lead of the game early in the third quarter at 32-16, but the Tigers closed out the quarter strong and cut the lead to 38-33 heading into the fourth. Westville scored more points (19) in the third quarter than they did in the first half.
“Our kids came out in the third and gave it everything they had,” Chandler said. “We had no mental breakdowns, and executed well on both sides of the ball.”
The Tigers would cut the lead to 40-37 with five minutes to go, but the Buffaloes responded with a 7-0 run and sealed the game late from the foul line. Hay was able to hold her dribble an eluded the Tigers defense for the last nine seconds of the game. Hall would score 10 of her points in the second half.
“We felt Callan would be open in the middle tonight,” Brooks said. She got her confidence in the second half and stepped up big. She gets a lot of rebounds and is all-around player.”
The Tigers finish their season at 12-18 and it was the final game for seniors Danielle Gabehart, Ashley Hoffman and Carson Richardson. Hoffman led the Tigers with 16 points, with Gabehart adding 10 points, and Richardson chipped in with six.
“We will miss our seniors and I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Chandler said. “In nearly 30 years of coaching both boys and girls, Carson is the most intelligent player I’ve coached. She understands the game very well, and was our leading rebounder. Danielle and Ashley are hard-nosed competitive athletes who always seemed to make big plays and they were our leading scorers. Ji’Cee Lacey had 10 points tonight and came up big for us, and she will be a key player for us next year.”
The Buffaloes move to 21-4 overall and will face the top seeded St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans in the regional final at Westville at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to win the first regional title for Georgetown since 1991,” Brooks said. “I have seen St. Joseph play a couple of times and know we will have to show up to play if we are going to get the win.”