Going deeper into the tournament than ever before, the 3rd ranked Monroe Central Lady Bear basketball team reached the Eastern HS Regional championship Saturday.
In front a large crowd, the Lady Bears came up just short to Oak Hill, 37-31.
Monroe Central got off to a fast start just as they had in the semi-finals, leading Oak Hill 10-5 after one quarter. But foul trouble struck including leading scorer sophomore Jordyn Barga and the Golden Eagles jumped in front at the half, 19-17.
“Once again, in the first quarter we played better than them,” said coach Leigh Ann Barga. “In the second quarter, foul trouble came into play but we were still only down two.”
In the second half, the Lady Bears’ aggressive defense and Oak Hill’s zone play came into play. Oak Hill coach Todd Law mentioned on a morning radio show it was imperative to keep his team out of foul trouble. And it was – as his team knocked down 14-of-22 free throws while limiting MC to only 4-of-8 attempts.
Oak Hill opened their advantage to 28-23 after three quarters and while the Lady Bears kept them within striking distance, they never could get over the hump.
“In the second half, I thought their match up zone hurt us. We did get a lot of looks, but we missed some shots we normally hit,” Barga said. “Loose balls seemed to go their way as well. They are a good team. We held them to 37 points, unfortunately, we didn’t shoot as well as we have in other games.”
Oak Hill came in averaging close to 60 points a game, and their 37 points was only the 3rd time all year they had been held under 40. Their one loss this season was one of those games.
Oak Hill improved to 26-1 with the win over the Lady Bears.
Abigail McGrath led MC with 13 points, while Hannah Bolton scored 9. Jordyn Barga had 5 points and with 2 each were Marissa Huddleston and Faith Cope.
In the semi-final game, Monroe Central got off to a 13-0 lead but had to claw their way back to a 44-40 win over Madison-Grant.
MC held a 14-2 lead after one and still posted a 24-16 advantage at the half.
Madison-Grant came out on all cylinders in the second half quickly tying the game and building a 32-30 lead after three quarters. It was a tight game until the last two minutes when the Lady Bears seemingly gained back the upper hand and advanced to the title game.
“The girls came out and took it at them the first quarter,” Barga said. “Unfortunately, the second and third quarters we didn’t play with same intensity. The loose balls all went in their favor.
“The fourth quarter we hit some shots, got some steals and hit a couple free throws. We did what we needed to do to survive.”
Barga led the way with 17 points and knocking down 15 was Bolton. McGrath scored 6, Kinzie Williams had 3, Huddleston 2, and Cope 1.
“This was such a great experience for the girls, basketball program and school. We had such a great crowd there to support us,” Barga said.
The Lady Bears ended the year with a school best 24 wins and only 3 losses – to go with County, Conference, and Sectional titles.
This was such a great experience for the girls, basketball program and school. We had such a great crowd there to support us.