Lady ‘Cats Advance To Tournament Championship
By Ethan Colbert
In prior games, Bowling Green Head Coach Craig Smith has watched from the sidelines as the Lady ‘Cats wilted under defensive pressure.
He had seen it in the team’s game against Centralia.
He had seen it in the game against Highland and Palmyra.
On Wednesday night, in the semi-final round of the 94th Annual Bowling Green High School Invitational, he felt like he might see it again.
“In the fourth quarter, I told (Assistant Coach Paige) Chinn while we were on the bench that I hope we don’t beat ourselves in this game,” Smith said. “I said, ‘I hope we don’t give this one away.’”
The Lady ‘Cats (9-7) would indeed hold on to win the game, defeating the Van-Far Lady Indians (5-9) by a final score of 51-42. The victory gives the Lady ‘Cats their second consecutive appearance in the local tournament championship game, which will be played on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Bowling Green High School Gymnasium.
The victory, which prior to the game seemed like a forgone conclusion due to the difference in the two teams’ rankings, seemed to be in perilousy jeopardy midway through the fourth quarter when Van-Far began to whittle away at the deficit on the scoreboard.
Van-Far’s comeback was fueled by two key statlines — causing defensive turnovers and near-perfect shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
After the game, multiple members of the Lady ‘Cats roster said the Lady Indians’ defensive pressure intensified in the fourth quarter and caused some of Bowling Green’s young players to panic.
“I think both teams were getting tired and we were wanting to rush things when we didn’t need to,” Kinley Charlton said. Charlton, a junior at BGHS, was one of two players to finish the game with double digits as she finished the game with 10 points.
“Then, we finally learned to use our lead to our advantage and to kill some time off of the clock,” Charlton said.
Smith agreed with his player’s assessment.
“We were pressing the issue,” Smith said in a post-game interview with the Times. “We were trying to do more than we needed to do. I kept telling the girls to take their time, that there is no shot clock, there is no rush, there is no reason to rush their shot. We just wanted to keep pushing the tempo and to force the ball to do more than we actually needed to do.”
Bowling Green built its double-digit lead in the second quarter as the Lady ‘Cats went on a 23-8 scoring run that was propelled by Gabi Deters and Madeline Norton. The two guards were unblemished from behind the three point line, going three for three.
After the game, Deters said she and her teammates were just firing on all cylinders during the second quarter and were able to find weak spots in Van-Far’s zone defense.
“At first, they were not playing a very good defense where their hand is in your face,” Deters said. “But, once we settled in and started making some shots they stepped up their defense. We didn’t shoot as many, if any, after that.”
With their perimeter shots limited, Bowling Green was able to pound the ball inside to Charlton and to Caitlin Bilhartz, who finished the game with nine points, which is well below her season average.
After the game, Bilhartz credited Van-Far for coming into the game with the word, “upset,” on their mind.
“They came in with the mindset that they were going to beat us,” Bilhartz said. “They were ready to play and it showed.”
From the perspective of Bilhartz and her teammates, Wednesday night’s victory was a test to see if Bowling Green could outlast Van-Far, who at times physically pushed the ball up the court at a rapid speed.
“I am tired after this game,” Bilhartz said. “I couldn’t have lasted much longer, but thankfully, my teammates and I were able to outlast them. We’d done just enough.”
Scoring for Bowling Green were: Gabi Deters, 14 points; Kinley Charlton, 10 points; Caitlin Bilhartz, 9 points; Brylie Sparks, 6 points; Madeline Norton, 6 points; Grace Twellman, 4 points; Morgen Billings, 1 point; and Olivia Niemeyer, 1 point.