SERENA – The end result wasn’t what Hinckley-Big Rock girls basketball coach Greg Burks wanted, but he wasn’t mad about the way his team played.
Burks watched his Royals blow a 10-point second-half lead in Thursday’s Little Ten Conference tournament semifinal against Serena, as the Huskers escaped with a 37-35 win after Demi Witter put in the winning basket with a minute left.
However, Burks stood on the court in an empty gym after the game and praised the way his team fought all game. The Royals (11-11) had turnover problems against the Serena (14-7) press, and had to deal with foul trouble.
While third-seeded H-BR let a lead slip away against the second-seeded Huskers, the Royals were in it right until the end, when Bridgette Edmeier had a chance to give the Royals the lead with an open 3-pointer in the final seconds. Lauren Paver also had a chance to force overtime with a putback.
It was a far cry from the game these two teams played a week ago, when the Royals lost by 16 points at the same gym.
Burks said his team really showed him something despite the defeat.
“You know what, [Serena], a week ago on this same floor came out and embarrassed us and did everything they wanted to against us,” Burks said. “We pretty much laid down and died. Tonight we saw a lot of fight. We saw some desire.”
It was an interesting game for both the Royals and Huskers in Thursday’s second semifinal. Serena had a nice start forcing some H-BR turnovers, and the teams combined for just five points in the second quarter.
At the start of the second half, the Royals looked like a completely different group, catching fire and getting off to a 31-21 lead, but Serena was able to hang around.
To H-BR sophomore Karrigan Cowan, the Royals are just a tough team to handle when they get momentum, which was the case early in the second half.
“We had that lead there for a little bit,” she said. “Everybody was working together, everybody came together at once,” she said. “... We all knew what we had to do and we got it done.”
One thing H-BR was able to do was spread its scoring around. Paver led the Royals with nine points, while Cowan and Jacqueline Madden each had seven. Abbie Tosch finished with six points for H-BR.
H-BR will play fourth-seeded Indian Creek in Friday’s third-place game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Serena. The Timberwolves fell, 53-37, against top-seeded Newark in Thursday’s other semifinal.
While the second semifinal came down to the end, Newark showed who the stronger team was early on in the first contest. The Norsemen improved to 18-1 with the win over the T’Wolves (11-11), which was their 14th consecutive victory. Newark has been in the LTC Tournament final every year since 2003.
Indian Creek coach Paul Muchmore thought his team looked strong at times, but in the end the Norsemen caused problems with their strong post play and outside shooting.
“It was a little bit frustrating, but I thought overall we played well,” Muchmore said. “We had some real tough matchups there, they shot the ball real well.”
Kate Thuestad led the Timberwolves with 16 points. Ariel Russell added nine points for Indian Creek, and Samantha Mosley finished with seven.