BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – It’s a search for an identity, and sometimes it can lead to growing pains.
Holy Trinity coach Tony Johnson tried a young lineup in Tuesday’s game with WACO.
But missed layups and free throws, a constant struggle for the Crusaders, hurt again in a 29-27 home loss.
Johnson, who was missing junior Kassi Randolph (sprained ankle), went with a lineup of freshmen Natalie Randolph and Mary Kate Bendlage, sophomores Kayla Box and Brooke Mueller, and senior Maria Rauenbuehler.
There were flashes of what is coming in the future for this team, but there were still mistakes that proved costly.
“We’re still looking for ‘it,’ but what ‘it’ is, I don’t know,” Johnson said. “We’re still trying to discover who we are.”
Still, the Crusaders had their chances in the final minute. Down 28-27 in the closing seconds, Bendlage and Raquel Schneider each missed shots inside. WACO’s Grace Coble made the second of two free throws after being fouled with 3.4 seconds left, then Holy Trinity turned the ball over on an inbounds play.
All WACO (4-6 overall, 3-2 SEI Superconference South Division) had to do was get the ball inbounds, but Bailey Hellweg came up with the steal and headed toward the Holy Trinity basket, but she couldn’t get a shot off in time.
Holy Trinity (4-10, 3-7) scored just two second-quarter points, but trailed just 12-9. The Crusaders were down 23-16 heading into the fourth quarter before finally getting some shots to fall.
Still, the missed layups proved costly.
“We just can’t finish at the rim,” Johnson said. “We just can’t score, just can’t finish. Darnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The Crusaders were just 1-of-5 from the free-throw line in the second half.
“It’s all correctable stuff,” Johnson said. “We just have to figure out how to make the easy shots.”
Johnson said the Crusaders missed the consistency of Kassi Randolph.
“I know what she’s going to give me every night,” he said. “She’s going to give me eight or so points, six or so rebounds. We could have used her inside.”
Natalie Randolph finished with seven points, all in the second half. Bendlage had six. Rauenbuehler had five.
Rauenbuehler and Randolph had the only 3-pointers for the Crusaders.
“If we can hit the outside shots, we can loosen things up inside,” Johnson said.
Ellah Kissell led WACO with 16 points.
The Crusaders dropped a 53-35 loss to Mt. Pleasant on Monday night. Bendlage led HTC with 12 points.