The Section Section 3AAAA girls' basketball championship game between Rosemount and Eastview Wednesday night felt like heavyweight boxing match with both teams exchanging knockout punches for the entire second half. The Irish led 19-17 at halftime and from the opening whistle of the second half, they and Eastview made big shot after big shot, alternating leads with each basket feeling 10 times more critical than the last. However, the Lightning ended up taking a 42-41 lead with under a minute left and held on to make their eighth-straight state tournament. It is the fourth time in five seasons the Irish have fallen to Eastview in the section championship game.
"It was a fantastic game, it was everything you want in a section finals as far as the game itself, the atmosphere, the electricity in the building, it was fun to be a part of," said head coach Chris Orr.
Heading into the game at Eastview, Rosemount had won 10 straight games including the section playoffs dating back to the end of January, which included a 57-45 win over the Lightning on Feb. 5 at Rosemount. They knew what was needed to beat the defending section champs.
"Game plan going in was do our best to guard the 3-point line, switch all screens and keep them in front of us and make them earn everything and I felt we did a fantastic job at that," Orr said. "We had one little breakdown late in the game at switching screens but other than that we did exactly what we wanted to do on defense."
Rosemount led 19-17 at the end of the first half, which was a quick 20 minutes with hardly any fouls called. Sophomore Ivory Finley had nine of the Irish's 19 points while fellow sophomore Helen Staley had eight.
"We did a great job of just controlling the tempo, taking care of the basketball and working it inside to Helen (Staley), who was productive in the first half with that, and we played great team defense," Orr said about the team's first half performance.
The second half was back-and-forth until the very end. With 12 minutes left in the game, Rosemount led 28-25 courtesy of a couple big 3-pointers by junior Larisa O'Neil. Eastview came back and took a 33-30 lead with 8:37 left but the Irish reclaimed the lead with 2:30 left in the game 41-38. Rosemount led 41-40 with a minute left but missed a free throw in the final minute and Eastview retook the lead 42-41 with 25 seconds left.
Rosemount was forced to foul twice in those last 25 seconds after not being able to score but the Lightning missed both of the front-ends of the 1-and-1s. With just a little over a second remaining, it was Irish ball but they had to inbound the length of the court from the opposite baseline. Orr drew up a play that got the ball to junior Taylor Janssen who caught the ball about just over half-court, turned and shot while being double-teamed. The shot was no good but there was controversy over whether or not she was fouled, but the game ended there with the Lightning winning 42-41.
"You look back and when you get close games like that you kind of micromanage every possession and what not, we talked all year long about the importance of every possession counts. Big picture we really did everything we wanted to do, probably had a few too many turnovers in the second half, we only had 11 for the game which is good but they only had three," said Orr looking back on the game. "That's eight possessions and that's a big difference right there, even though 11 is not a lot, but it's magnified when there's not many possessions in the game and it's the section finals. We missed one free-throw in the game and it just happened to be in the last minute. We had some great looks and everything, they just didn't fall. They (Eastview) ended up making a few more plays."
Despite the result, Orr said his team did everything he could have asked them too and coaching wise, he would not change much.
"I've been thinking about it all day, what else would I have done different, there really isn't much else I would have done different," he said. "We gave ourselves a chance and put ourselves in a great position and unfortunately it just didn't work out."