The Washington girls basketball season came to an end Tuesday night, losing to Normal University High School 49-39 in the semifinal round of the Class 3A Washington regional.
The No. 8 seed Lady Panthers (11-18) fell behind early, but fought back to within four points in the final minute of regulation before falling short.
U-High, the No. 2 seed, jumped out to a 16-7 lead after the first quarter of play.
In the second quarter, the Lady Pioneers piled on to their advantage, outscoring Washington 16-7 to take a 32-15 lead into the halftime break.
Washington struggled with U-High’s defense in the first half, shooting 22 percent from the field.
“That is probably the worst we’ve shot all year,” Washington coach Kim Holdenrid said. “We couldn’t buy a basket and U-High shot it really well. They found the open person and put it in the basket.”
Holdenrid said that she made plenty of changes at the break, hoping the girls would respond.
“We made adjustments at halftime on our defense,” Holdenrid said.
Washington held U-High to 17 points in the second half.
The Lady Panthers won the third quarter 11-8, narrowing their deficit to 14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Washington continued its run in the fourth, bringing the U-High lead down to four points with 90 seconds remaining.
“We made some great stops in the second half,” Holdenrid said. “We just showed a lot of heart and character, especially at the end of the game.”
With time running out, Holdenrid elected to extend the game by fouling the Lady Pioneers, forcing them to make free throws.
“They went 3-for-8 at the end of the game, which isn’t great” Holdenrid. “But, it was enough to seal the win.”
Sierra Sonnemaker led Washington with 11 points.
Lily Harlan (10 points) and Lauren Ely (9 points) were the other leading scorers for the Lady Panthers.
Despite the loss, Holdenrid is proud of the way the team responded at halftime after trailing by a large deficit.
“Being down 17 at the half, we could’ve just gave up and lost by 30,” Holdenrid said. “But we came back and made it a game. I’m proud of our girls.”
Seniors Maddi Campbell, Bailey Bambrick, Khialee Boyles and Ely played their final basketball games at Washington.
“I’m going to miss what these (seniors) have committed to the program,” Holdenrid said. “They wanted to be better, whether they had less talent than other girls, and they worked harder to make up for that. This group is leaving huge shoes to fill and they laid a foundation for what we want to do. I think our future is bright.”
The future has been in play for the Lady Panthers this season, with major contributions from juniors and sophomores.
Junior Josie Morgan and sophomores Sierra Sonnemaker, Lily Harlan and Anne Peters each played a key role in Washington’s 2016-17 season.
“The growth that I have seen from the young girls on our team is going to help us so much going forward,” Holdenrid said. “It’s crazy to think that I have more time with them.”