WINNEBAGO – In Oregon’s 45-33 regional semifinal loss to Byron, one of two things would happen anytime the Hawks would get close: a turnover or a missed shot near the basket.
“That’s been our story all year,” Oregon coach Kristy Eckardt said. “We had the chance to tie or go ahead, and we couldn’t convert.”
The Hawks trailed the entire game, but pulled within 29-27 at the end of the third quarter, and then 33-31 early in the fourth on a pair of Bailey Montavon baskets. With a 29-16 rebounding advantage at that point and being the aggressor most of the contest, Oregon (12-8) appeared poised to gain control.
Instead, Byron’s defense stiffened and Oregon had turnovers on four of its next six possessions, and the Hawks didn’t make another basket the rest of the game. Oregon was also hurt by the shooting of guard Emmi Keller, who scored 24 of the 45 points by Byron.
In the third quarter, though, Byron opened the door for Oregon by only scoring one point.
After committing 16 turnovers and only shooting 6-for-23 in the first half, Oregon trailed 28-16. Additionally, two turnovers came within the first 30 seconds of the third quarter.
When it looked the bleakest, Oregon quickly went on a 9-0 run to pull within 28-25. Sandwiched between two baskets by Jessica Hunt were scores by Olivia Lambrigtsen and Addie Kitzmiller.
Meredith Gelander, who led everyone in assists, fed Hunt beautifully for one of the scores, then did the same to Montavon in the fourth quarter.
“We were attacking and moving the ball around,” Eckardt said. “We were following the game plan.”
With both teams playing pressure defense, the rest of the third quarter saw 11 combined turnovers and 10 missed shots. The only score in the final 4 minutes was a basket by Hunt to make it 29-27.
“We played our hearts out,” Eckardt said. “If we could have made some of those close-in shots and held on to the ball, it may have been a different outcome.”
No. 3 seed Byron (18-11) moves on to play No. 2 Winnebago in the 2A regional final today.