STERLING – The Dixon Duchesses couldn't have asked for any better execution of their game plan during Tuesday night's Class 3A Sterling Regional semifinal against the Rochelle Hubs.
Make life tough for Rochelle center Michelle Dobbs? Check. Get junior scorer Brooke Bailey some open looks on offense? Check. Have other players step up and take open shots ... and hit them? Check.
But the well ran dry at the least opportune time for the Duchesses. The shots stopped falling in the final minutes, and Dixon's season came to an end with a 45-36 loss to the Hubs.
"We did a great job running our stuff," Bailey said, "but the shots just didn't fall for us ... especially when we needed them late. But that's basketball. It's sad that this season is over, but we have to learn from it, move on to next year, and try and get better."
Dixon (11-18) took every punch Rochelle (21-5) dished out, and bounced back from the canvas each time.
Carly Hartle's three-point play and Bailey's pull-up jumper in the lane turned a 14-7 first-quarter deficit into a 14-12 game early in the second period, then Kari Wolfe sandwiched a 3-pointer between a pair of Bailey buckets to trim a 30-19 third-quarter deficit to 32-26 midway through the third.
The biggest bounce-back came in the fourth. After neither team scored for the first 5:43 of the period, Bailey took a steal coast-to-coast for a layup and was fouled. She hit the free throw, then hit two more after rebounding a Rochelle miss to bring the Duchesses to within 39-34 with 2:07 to play.
"Whenever you have a player like Brooke Bailey, you know you're never safe," Rochelle coach Kay Dobbs said.
But Dixon could get no closer. Christina Williams and Michelle Dobbs each hit two free throws over the next minute, and Katie Roush's runout layup with 20 seconds left provided the final margin after Hartle had scored inside off a Bailey assist 40 seconds earlier.
"We were able to get open looks, and you hope when that happens that you can knock them down," Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. "We did well for most of the game, but didn't get a couple of bounces to go our way down the stretch.
"I'm proud of these girls and how they never stopped battling, but you have to credit Rochelle with making big shots when they needed to all game long."
Williams led the Hubs with 10 points, while Abby Gould added eight. Lauren Murphy had six points and seven rebounds, and Marin Meiners chipped in five points, four boards and four assists. Dobbs, who scored 35 points in a 57-32 win against Dixon last Tuesday, was limited to eight points on 2-for-4 shooting and 4-for-6 free throws, but did grab 10 rebounds against the Duchesses' box-and-one defense.
"We feel like we have good depth and have players that can step up when Michelle is being denied the ball," coach Dobbs said. "We saw that today; I thought Williams played an awesome game, and Meiners hit some big shots and made some great passes."
Bailey led all scorers with 17 points, and also had team highs of six rebounds and three steals. Wolfe, Hartle and Kacie Dillow scored six points each, with Dillow grabbing four rebounds and dishing three assists. Hartle had three boards and two steals, and Wolfe also had a pair of thefts.
"This team showed a lot of heart tonight, especially on defense," Bailey said. "Kacie and Maggie [Bushman] did a great job against Dobbs, and we never gave up in any phase of the game until the final buzzer. We never thought we were out of it, and that just shows how hard we fought tonight."
Class 3A Sterling Regional semifinal
Rochelle 45, Dixon 36
Star of the game: Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist
Key performers: Christina Williams, Rochelle, 10 points; Michelle Dobbs, Rochelle, 8 points, 10 rebounds; Marin Meiners, Rochelle, 5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists; Kacie Dillow, Dixon, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Kari Wolfe & Carly Hartle, Dixon, 6 points, 2 steals each
Up next: Class 3A Sterling Regional championship, Rochelle vs. Sterling, 7:30 p.m. Thursday