Magic runs out for Lady Cats
THREE RIVERS — The Three Rivers Lady Cats basketball team ran out of postseason magic Tuesday.
Otsego’s height had a big impact on the game at both ends of the floor as the Lady Bulldogs handed the host Lady Cats a 49-38 Class B regional semifinal loss.
Defending state champion Marshall defeated Stevensville-Lakeshore 71-44 in the other semifinal. Lakeshore finishes the season 18-6, while Three Rivers ends the year 10-14.
Marshall (21-2) battles Otsego (20-3) in Thursday’s 7 p.m. title clash.
Three Rivers won the opening tipoff and scored almost immediately on a putback by freshman forward Hadley Miller for a quick 2-0 Lady Cats lead.
It would be the only time Three Rivers would lead Otsego the entire night.
Grace VerHage scored the next five points for Otsego, including a three-pointer, to put her ballclub on top 8-2.
Miller scored again from underneath lessening Three Rivers’ deficit to four, 8-4.
Otsego scored the next four points to build its lead to eight, 12-4, with baskets from VerHage and Kaelyn Arlington.
Three Rivers’ senior forward Cara Smith drove down the center of the lane for a layup, cutting her team’s deficit to six, 12-6 entering the second quarter.
VerHage’s layup on Otsego’s first possession of the second quarter put the Bulldogs up 14-6.
Miller answered with a left-handed layup to bring Three Rivers back within six, 14-8.
Otsego increased its lead to 10 points, 18-10 following baskets underneath the iron from junior guard Liz Barwegen and Madison Rayman.
Smith scooped up an offensive rebound and knocked down a short jumper to lessen the Lady Cats’ deficit to eight, 18-10 with 4:30 left in the half.
Rayman answered with a basketball down in the post that made it 20-10 in Otsego’s favor.
Arionne Fowlkes’ layup brought Three Rivers back again within eight, 20-12.
Otsego built its advantage to 13, 25-12 at the break thanks to an Erica Drobny free throw, Rayman’s basket inside and a pair of free throws from Lauren Nieboer.
“Our inefficiency at the offensive end in the first half created a hole for us tonight. We were too passive against their half court trap and didn’t attack as much as we needed to. Then when we did make the right reads and rotations we were unable to knock down shots at the end of it,” said Three Rivers coach Jason Bingaman.
Jaycie Callaway of Otsego scored the first two baskets of the third quarter and helped expand the Bulldogs’ lead to 17, 29-12.
Fowlkes’ three-pointer brought Three Rivers back to within 14, 29-15.
Otsego went on to outscore Three Rivers 10-9 to finish the period and carried a 39-24 lead into the fourth quarter.
Rhyeli Krause’s three-pointer and a pair of free throws by Miller brought the Lady Cats back within nine, 46-37, with 1:46 left in the contest.
Rayman hit the first of two free-throw tosses to put the Bulldogs back up by double digits, 47-37, with 1:19 left.
Fowlkes capped the Lady Cats’ scoring by making the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation with 1:10 left.
VerHage added a deuce in the closing seconds to put an exclamation point on the Bulldogs’ win.
“We played hard, but every time in the second half we would make a run Otsego would get a shot due to us extending. Otsego does a nice job with floor spacing and was able to use their height to exploit us both while we were trapping them, and when they were trapping us,” Bingaman said.
“We had some times where we were in good position but they were able to pass over us, or rebound over us in big spots. Still, we kept fighting and I’m proud of that.”
Please see Wednesday's Commercial-News print or e-edition for the full article.