BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Thursday nights Region 4 win over New London was the first time the Holy Trinity Crusaders were all together in a week.
Head Coach Tony Johnson’s squad knocked off New London 52-44 in the opening round of Region 4 Class 1A girls basketball at Shottenkirk Gymnasium.
“Today was the first day I’ve seen all 13 of ’em in about a week,” Johnson said.
“Had six a practice Tuesday, no practice last night due to weather and illness.”
Johnson said he had a fear that with all the illnesses combined with then facing a conference team for the third time could prove problematic for the Lady Crusaders.
“I thought they fought through it. We shortened up the bench in the second half, but I think everyone that played contributed in some way tonight.
The game was tight in the first half with HTC holding just a one-point first quarter lead at 10-9. Senior Ashlyn Haas, who led all scorers on the night with 20 points, had six in the first period for the Crusaders.
Holy Trinity was able to contain the Tigers’ senior Layney Loyd in the first quarter keeping her without a bucket. But Loyd would finish with 18 points, including six straight in the second period.
Johnson said he wanted to force Loyd to go left inside, but didn’t do a good job of that in the second half.
“We knew she was most of their offense so we wanted to make her go left and keep her off the boards,” Johnson said.
Loyd would hit two free throws after getting fouled HTC’s Kassi Randolph going to the hoop to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 20-15. Holy Trinity would miss three straight in a stretch of six, before the Tiger’s Kara Krieger hit a 3-ball to cut it to two points with 2:02 left in the half.
Freshman Brooke Mueller and Claire Pothitakis would each make one of two from the free throw line down the stretch to give the Crusaders a 22-18 halftime lead.
Holy Trinity would push the lead to eight at 33-25 with less than two minutes to go in the third period on a bucket by Randolph from the left baseline.
Krieger would counter with another of her four 3-pointers on the night to trim the lead back to give, but HTC junior Bailey Hellweg would answer from the right wing for a 36-28 lead.
Holy Trinity would have leads as large as nine points in the final period, but New London would make a run in the last minute with a little 6-2 run highlighted by 3-ball from Tiger freshman Emma Nye from the left wing to make it a 47-44 game.
The Crusaders would hold the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way, while going 5-of-6 from the free throw line to put the game away.
“It seemed we got some big shots tonight when we needed them to stop some runs they had.”
Behind Haas, Randolph had 10 and Avery Hopper, who got into foul trouble in the first quarter and sat most of the first half, finished with seven. Raquel Schneider, Claire Pothitakis, Maria Rauenbuehler, Hellweg and Mueller all had three points.
Krieger had 14 behind Loyd’s 18 to pace the Tigers.
The Crusaders will now face Lone Tree on Tuesday in Lone Tree at 7 p.m. The Lions downed Hillcrest Academy 59-16 in that opening round game.
Burlington Notre Dame and Winfield Mt. Union each won their opening round games and will face off at Father Minnett Gym in Burlington on Tuesday at 7 p.m.