48 fouls, 70 free throws later, Manchester prevails –
By Mark Carpenter –
The third match up of Friday night’s semi-final round saw the Manchester Lady Greyhounds tangle with the host squad of West Union Lady Dragons. Anyone who was in attendance probably left the game with the sound of whistles blowing in their head as the game featured 48 fouls, with a depleted West Union roster seeing four girls foul out, and 70 free throws (51 of those shot by the Lady Hounds). The Lady Hounds didn’t shoot well from the line, hitting only 30 of the 51 attempts, but it was enough to help propel them to an ugly win by a final count of 66-55, moving them to the Classic finals for the first time since 2014.
Coming into Friday’s match up, neither team had been known so far this season for scoring a lot of points, so naturally they combined for 85 in the first half. The game began with a West Union flavor as a three-pointer by Harley Silvia and a pair of Haley Daniels free throws made it 5-0. Unfortunately for the home team, that was the only time they led the rest of the way. Manchester answered with a 9-0 run that began with a Brooke Kennedy put back and ended with a Darrington White basket in transition.
A later three-pointer from Josie Campbell made it 14-6 Lady Hounds and the three-pointers continued to rain down over the next minute with Emily Sweeney and C.J. Hobbs going deep for Manchester and Silvia striking again from long range for the Lady Dragons, as unexpected offense became the theme of the first quarter. With less than a minute left in the period, Sweeney hit another trey to give her team a double digit lead at 24-14. Two McKenzie Smith free throws kept the lead at 10, but a third Silvia three in the final seconds cut the Manchester margin to 26-19 after one.
Staying hot as a firecracker, Silvia opened the second quarter with yet another three ball to cut the gap to four, but the Lady Hounds answered, scoring the game’s next six before the three-point barrage continued with a long ball by West Union’s Kaley Daniels. That was followed by a 7-1 spurt by the Lady Hounds , which was then followed by back to back threes from Kaley Daniels and Silvia that made it 39-34, still in favor of the Lady Hounds.
The first half barrage of three-pointers continued with Sweeney nailing two more in the final 1:20 of the half and the Lady Hounds went to the intermission still up by double digits at 48-37.
The scoring pace slowed down considerably in the third quarter, as the Lady Dragons stayed within striking distance on the strength of a jumper by McKenzie Kirker and a three from the corner by Kiersten Rowe, but they suffered a devastating blow with just 23 seconds left in the third. Going up for a shot, Silvia came down awkwardly and immediately hit the floor in pain, leaving the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Also late in the period, West Union coach J.R. Kirker was whistled for a technical foul and when Kennedy hit both free throws, the Lady Hounds took a 59-45 lead into the final eight minutes.
With their leading scorer gone and the fouls on their side piling up, the feisty Lady Dragons scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, four by Jaycee Baldwin, to close the gap again to single digits, but with four players being forced to the bench with their fifth fouls, and Coach Kirker forced to use some inexperienced JV players, the Lady Hounds were able to hang on for a 66-55 victory that propelled them into the Saturday night title game with North Adams.
A balanced attack saw the Lady Hounds (6-4) place four players in double figures, led by 15 points from Emily Sweeney, 13 from Sydnie Cox, and 10 each from Brooke Kennedy and Darrington White.
Before she left the game and on the strength of five three-point goals, Harley Silvia led the Lady Dragons (3-5) with 16 points. Another pair of West Union girls hit the double figure plateau, Jaycee Baldwin with 13 and Kaley Daniels with 11, while Kiersten Rowe added 7.
The Lady Dragons scored more field goals than Manchester, but fell short with the big free throw disparity. The two teams combined to make 15 three-point goals in the game.
26 22 11 7 –66
19 18 8 10 -55
Manchester (66): White 2 6-8 10, Cox 4 5-10 13, Smith 0 6-12 6, Campbell 1 0-1 3, Kennedy 3 4-6 10, Sweeney 4 3-6 15, Hobbs 1 6-8 9, Team 15 30-51 66.
W. Union (55): Baldwin 4 5-7 13, Silvia 5 1-3 16, Kirker 1 1-2 3, Rowe 3 0-0 7, Mills 0 1-2 1, H. Daniels 0 4-5 4, K. Daniels 4 0-0 11, Team 17 12-19 55.
Manchester (6): Campbell 1, Sweeney 4, Hobbs 1
W. Union (9): Silvia 5, Rowe 1, K. Daniels 3