HINCKLEY – Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for Hinckley-Big Rock.
After trailing big most of the second half, Jacqueline Madden’s 3-pointer with just less than three minutes left in Thursday’s critical Little Ten contest against Serena brought the Royals to within eight points.
However, it wasn’t going to be enough, as H-BR’s offense was sluggish most of the night against the Huskers’ trapping, presssing defense, which paid off in a 52-41 Serena victory.
With the win, the Huskers (10-5, 4-1 Little Ten Conference) stayed in the conference title hunt with Newark, which was unbeaten heading into Thursday, while H-BR’s (7-10, 3-2 LTC) conference championship hopes are now a longshot.
“More than anything I think there was a sense of urgency,” H-BR coach Greg Burks said of his team’s fourth-quarter run which came up short. “We’ve got to find a way to have a sense of urgency for 32 minutes.”
Serena led, 23-17, at halftime before a strong third put the Huskers up by 15 points. H-BR used a press in the fourth quarter and had some outside success with 3-pointers from Madden and Lexi Gonzalez.
The Huskers used a full-court press in the first half, something Serena normally features.
Madden said it was the Huskers’ zone, which featured some trapping as well, that made it tough on the Royals’ scoring chances.
H-BR turned the ball over 18 times.
“They had an overset 2-3 and it really bothered us just getting the ball [into the paint],” Madden said. “... We made some bad passes and they collapsed the middle, which hurt us.”
Burks actually expected the Huskers to press a lot more, Serena let up after halftime. He felt his team struggled to move the ball around.
“We weren’t strong with the basketball and we took too long in our decision making,” Burks said. “So that was a bad combination.”
Lauren Paver led H-BR with 10 points. Madden and Anne Klein each added eight.
The No. 2 seed Huskers and No. 3 Royals could meet up in the semifinals of the Little Ten Tournament later this month, but that possible matchup hasn’t crossed Burks’ mind.
“We need to find a way to win before we talk about playing somebody down the road. I believe in my kids, I believe in what we do here, I believe they’re capable of doing it,” Burks said. “It’s a matter of finding the right combinations and finding the right things to make it work, and I know we can do that as the season progresses here.”