DIXON – For three quarters Thursday afternoon, the Dixon Duchesses controlled the pace of play in their Dixon Holiday Tournament quarterfinal against Belvidere North.
The fourth quarter was all Blue Thunder.
Belvidere North picked up its pressure, extended it full-court, and ran past Dixon 39-29 at Lancaster Gym, closing the game on a 16-2 run over the final 7 minutes.
“They definitely turned up the pressure, and we could’ve handled it better,” Dixon senior Britney Pitzer said. “We needed to be stronger with the ball, make the simple passes, and keep finding the open shots like we had been all game, but we couldn’t do it.”
Consecutive 3-pointers by Caylyn Kimmel and Avery Fox – the second coming off a pretty Pitzer pass to Fox on a scramble drill after an offensive rebound – gave the Duchesses (14-2) their biggest lead of the game at 26-21 with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
Dixon had trailed by six points twice early in the second quarter, but a 9-0 run – on Kimmel’s baseline floater, Fox’s 3 off a Zoe Carr kickout pass, Carr’s layup off a Pitzer post feed, and Emily Lynch’s layup off a Bushman feed – put it ahead 17-14 with 1:06 left before the break.
The Duchesses pushed that lead to 19-15 on Pitzer’s baseline drive and layup off the opening inbounds pass of the second half.
“We were playing well at the start, and then we did a good job in the third quarter,” Pitzer said. “We were running our offense and playing solid defense.
“Then Belvidere started getting more pressure, and executed their full-court and traps really well, and we couldn’t keep it going.”
Trailing 26-21, the Blue Thunder (8-6) got a coast-to-coast layup from Peyton Flynn off a steal to close the third quarter, then grabbed the momentum early in the fourth. After Kira Goral’s free throw gave Dixon a 27-23 lead with 7:23 to play, Brianna Lake banked a layup high off the glass at the 7-minute mark, allowing Belvidere North to set up its full-court defense.
The Blue Thunder made things tough in the backcourt for the Duchesses, then nabbed steals in the frontcourt that they turned into points. Dixon had four straight turnovers at one point, and Belvidere North turned those into seven points. The blitz turned the four-point deficit into a 34-27 lead on Flynn’s layup with 3:17 to play.
“We definitely picked up the pressure, got a few steals and turned those into easy points,” Lake said. “We relaxed, stopped trying to force things, and I think our defense got in their heads.”
Dixon couldn’t make up any ground in the next 2 minutes, and was forced to foul down the stretch. Belvidere North made five of its nine free throws over the final 1:22 to pull away.
After Goral’s free throw 37 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Duchesses scored just two more points the rest of the way, on a Pitzer coast-to-coast layup with 50 seconds left. Dixon had 16 of its 20 turnovers after halftime – and nine of those 16 in the fourth quarter – and shot just 3-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“We saw some tough pressure today, and we didn’t handle it well,” Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. “We had some shots rim out and not fall, some loose balls rolling around funny and some weird bounces, but that happens in every game, and you have to learn how to play through that.
“But that’s why you want to play these types of games at this time of the season, so we can see what we need to improve on. This is an experience we have to learn from, and I know our girls will work hard and get better because of this.”
Pitzer had 10 points and two assists to lead Dixon, while Fox finished with six points on those 2 3-pointers. Kimmel had five points and three rebounds, Lynch scored four points on 2-for-2 shooting, and Carr chipped in two points, nine rebounds and two assists.
Lake’s 14 points and six rebounds led Belvidere North, and she also nabbed two steals. Madison Diercks had nine points and five steals, Morgan McNulty added nine points and four steals, and Flynn finished with six points, three assists and three steals.
“Our defense locked down, and our best offense is usually from our defense,” Belvidere coach Aaron Leonard said. “We let Dixon hold the ball for large chunks of time in the first three quarters, and we told the girls we couldn’t let them do that. So we clamped down every time they tried to work it into the post, our press was outstanding in the fourth quarter, and we got aggressive and got into the passing lanes and forced the action.”
Dixon Holiday Tournament
Belvidere North 39, Dixon 29
Star of the game: Brianna Lake, Belvidere North, 14 points (12 after halftime), 6 rebounds, 2 steals
Key performers: Britney Pitzer, Dixon, 10 points, 2 assists; Madison Diercks, BN, 9 points, 5 steals; Morgan McNulty, BN, 9 points, 4 steals
Up next: Dixon Holiday Tournament, consolation semifinal, Dixon vs. Aquin, 1:30 p.m. today