Despite not playing their best, and while facing a stingy Bucklin defense, the Spearville Lancers girls basketball team remained unbeaten Friday night, beating the Red Aces 45-42.
For Bucklin, it was a night in which their effort and potential brought them to precipice of pulling off the upset, but which they couldn’t quite complete.
For Spearville, it was a night in which their talent and experience helped them avoid the potential upset, but in which they made some of the same mistakes they’ve made all season.
“I think we played well enough,” Lancers head coach Andrew Kempke said. “I don’t know if we played ‘really well.’ We had a stretch, when we built that 12-point lead, where we played really well. We guarded really well, we were smart offensively.”
Most of the game, however, the team was off, struggling with turnovers and passes, both of which were consistent problem for the Lancers Friday night.
A lot of that, Kemkpe said, was due to the way the Lancers responded to the tight pressure the Red Aces applied.
“When a team wants to get out and pressure us, we sometimes have trouble handling that,” Kempke said. “It’s something we know, we’ve been working at it, but we just at times don’t do a good job of handling when somebody wants to come out and just sit right on top of us and pressure us.”
When a team pressures like Bucklin did, the team sometimes just seems to want to throw the ball away, he said, instead of ripping and attacking.
Junior Ehlaina Hartman had a game-high 14 points for the Lancers. Junior Brianna Ede had 11 and was probably the most effective player down under the basket for the Lancers Friday night.
Spearville’s best quarter, by far, was the third, something that Kemkpe confirmed.
The Lancers took a 22-20 lead into halftime. After a game-tying bucket by Bucklin senior Tricia Hokanson in the first minute of the second half, the Lancers went on a 12-0 run to take a 34-22 lead. Key to that was Spearville sophomore Alissa Heskamp, who had 7 points in the third. She finished with 11.
Hokanson finished with 10 for the Red Aces who responded with an 8-0 run of their own to cut Spearville’s lead to just 4 points. The teams entered the fourth quarter with Spearville leading 34-30.
Kempke said the team had watched film on Bucklin and knew well that they wouldn’t quit. They had seen the film of Bucklin’s game earlier in the week when the Red Aces had played South Central and had entered that game’s fourth quarter down 22 only to open it on a 10-0 run before the Timberwolves had pulled away.
“We knew they weren’t going to quit,” Kempke said. “That was our talk all week long: ‘They’re not going to quit. They’re going to keep pressing, they’re going to keep playing us, they’re going to keep being physical, you’re going to have to handle it. We’re going to have to deal with it. We’re going to have to be smart.’ We didn’t do a very good job of that tonight.”
Hokanson’s 10 points were not, however, the high for Bucklin.
The first point of the night for Bucklin was a free throw by sophomore Janelle Tran-Chau. Her free throw in the first quarter cut Spearville’s lead from then 4-0 to 4-1. Tran-Chau finished with a team-high 11 points for the Red Aces.
Compared to the game against South Central, Bucklin head coach Craig Bowman said he thought his team took care of the ball and handled pressure better.
“We had some matchup problems to begin with and (Spearville) jumped out early,” Bowman said. “Once we settled back in defensively, we still had trouble rebounding and that’s to their credit.”
Bowman said Spearville is aggressive after rebounds.
“I think we failed in that department tonight,” Bowman said. “I don’t know how many second-chance points they had, but in a close game we’re looking at everything.”
Spearville went 5 of 16 from the free-throw line, while Bucklin went 12 of 23 from the line.
The Red Aces’ comeback effort in the third quarter was important in that it eventually set the stage for a fourth quarter in which the Red Aces took a 41-40 lead with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter.
After a 3-pointer by the Red Aces, Bowman took a timeout with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
“I think we were down 9 points at that time and I told them ‘This is what’s going to decide the game,’” Bowman said.
He credited the Lancers with making some key shots when it mattered to win.
The Red Aces had a chance to tie it after Ede missed two free throws with 5.5 seconds left and a 3-point lead, but Bucklin’s attempted last-second heave was contested, and the buzzer expired without any fouls being called on the play.
Kempke said one takeaway he had was that it’s always good to win ugly, even if the team feels it didn’t play its best.
“You can learn from that and learn from your mistakes and feel better about it,” Kempke said.
For Bucklin, Friday night was part of the process. They’re making steps, Bowman said.
“Like I told the girls, we’re right there. It’s just (taking) the next step,” Bowman said. “It’ll come in our progression, we’re still so young, it’s just going to come, and then we’ll have more confidence going into those games.”
For Spearville, it was a win, but also a reminder that this team has plenty to work on despite remaining undefeated.
Kempke pointed to the team’s game against South Gray earlier this season, where the Lancers led by 8 at halftime but had to eventually win in overtime. He then pointed at the game against Meade, where the Lancers trailed by 4 at halftime but eventually were able to come back and win.
“Every game we keep making the same mistakes, same mistakes, same mistakes, and it’s kind of like we just assume that ‘well eventually it’s going to fix itself.’ No,” Kempke said. “We need to start practicing probably a little bit harder, being a little bit smarter and then what we do in practice start applying a little more to what we’re doing in-game, and just (start) learning from ourselves and learning from our film. We’ve got to do a little better job of that as well.”
Spearville: The Lancers basketball teams close out their pre-SPIAA League Tournament schedule with road games Tuesday at Satanta.
Bucklin: The Red Aces basketball teams close out their pre-SPIAA League Tournament schedule with road games Tuesday at Fowler.