DONNELLSON — Elimination losses hurt the most.
Taylor Hickey showed the emotions of Central Lee’s 54-46 loss to Davis County in a Class 3A regional quarterfinal on Saturday night.
Which is why the first-year coach of the Hawks tried to make her players laugh after the game.
“I told them we have an 8 a.m. practice tomorrow,” she said, smiling through the sadness of the defeat.
The Hawks (9-13) had troubles solving the changing defense of the Mustangs (9-13), who advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal at Solon (20-2).
Central Lee led by as much as eight points in the first half and was up 22-19 at halftime before Davis County took over the game.
“We knew they ran a 1-3-1 defense and we struggled against that this season,” Hickey said. “So we put a lot of emphasis on that in practice this week and it showed in the first quarter. We did really well against the 1-3-1, got some easy scores and we were passing the ball well.”
The Mustangs’ transition to a man-to-man defense slowed the Hawks.
“We’ve usually played well against a man defense, but their defense was so much more intense and I think we got a little frazzled offensively,” Hickey said. “So we just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop.”
The Mustangs opened the second half with a 7-2 run, and when Ella Porter scored inside with 4:15 left in the third quarter, Davis County was up 30-28 and would never surrender the lead again.
Every time Central Lee scored, Davis County had an answer. The Hawks would stay close, and were within 46-44 with 1:52 to play after a 3-pointer from Makayla Morrison. But Porter scored on a putback of a Reese Humphrey miss and was fouled on the Mustangs’ next possession, and after she made the free throw Davis County was in command again.
Kenna Sandoval scored inside to cut the lead to 49-46, but Humphrey’s 3-pointer on the next possession sealed the win.
“When we would get the ball to the open player, the shots wouldn’t fall,” Hickey said. “And then we missed some rebounds, because they were taller than us, so we just couldn’t respond.”
Porter led Davis County with 21 points.
“We just couldn’t stop her,” Hickey said. “The post girls they have really work hard, and we’re undersized. We have some young girls who work hard in the post, but they lack the experience. That’s something we’ve got to work on.”
Morrison finished her career with a 21-point game.
“I just hugged her after the game,” Hickey said. “She’s been a four-year starter on this team. This was a huge game for her on her home floor for the last time, and I thought she handled the pressure the best she could. She’s meant so much for us.”
Freshman Taylor Jones added nine points for the Hawks.
“We’re going to miss the seniors,” Hickey said. “But we’ve got a good group coming in and we have some young kids coming in to help out.”
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