It was not the way Monroe Central fans wanted the script to go Saturday night. Perfect thru 25 games and looking to repeat as sectional champions.
But several factors including outstanding shooting by Frankton led the Eagles (21-5) to upset the Lady Bears, 66-61, in the Class 2A Sectional 40 title game.
University of Evansville recruit Sydney Tucker was one of the big factors. Tucker got out of the gate quickly with 13 first quarter points as Frankton led 15-4 early and 20-13 at the first break.
The Lady Bears got on track in the 2nd quarter outscoring Frankton 20-9 and with a late 3-point play from Katie Pike MC was on top at the half, 33-29.
“I thought we did a good job coming back and pulling ahead in the second quarter. The girls played hard and left it all on the floor,” said Lady Bear Coach Leigh Ann Barga.
Frankton hit 3 of their 9 three-point field goals in the 3rd period and retook the lead by the break 46-44.
In the fourth quarter it was a battle until the end. The Eagles, however, almost let off the gas too soon. After going up 64-57 with time winding down, Jordyn Barga went up for a deep three and was fouled. The shot went in and MC had pulled within 64-61.
On the in-bounds play, Frankton lost the handle on the ball and for a brief second MC fans held on to hope for a steal and a three to possible send the game into OT. But Frankton regained possession and MC was whistled for a foul. The Eagles, who were a perfect 11-for-11 in the game from the charity stripe, sank the final two free throws to seal the title.
Frankton shot 50 percent on the night, but MC countered with 51 percent. The difference was Frankton hit 9 three-pointers shooting 45 percent behind the arc including a few NBA 3’s from Tucker, who finished with 31 points. The Eagles hit all 11 free throws including 8-for-8 in the 4th quarter, while MC was 5-for-8 for the game.
“It’s hard to beat a team that shoots the way they did last night. Tucker hit a couple that were ten feet behind the 3-point line,” Barga said, “What we didn’t do well was hit some shots underneath that we should have.
“The press caused us some turnovers because we didn’t execute our press breaker like we should have. Every possession is important and we had 17 turnovers. You can’t win big games and turn the ball over that much.”
The Lady Bears outrebounded Frankton, 24-16 but made 17 turnovers to only 10 for the Eagles.
The 66 points scored was the most the Lady Bears allowed all season. The 2nd most – 49 – came in the 62-49 win against the same Frankton team back on January 15.
“We didn’t contain Tucker like we talked about. She had 13 points in the first quarter. After we held her scoreless in the second quarter, in the second half she got hot again. We didn’t slow them down and they hit shots, so our defense wasn’t as good as it had been in the past,” Barga said.
Jordyn Barga led MC with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Abigail McGrath scored 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Hannah Bolton finished with 6 points as did Katie Pike who also had 4 assists. Bailey Duncan scored 3 and with 2 was Faith Cope.
Bolton, MC’s second leading scorer, bit thru her lip early in the game and was sidelined for several minutes. She did return and played out the night but it was obvious the injury bothered her throughout the night
“Obviously Hannah getting elbowed in the mouth didn’t help,” Barga said. “I am not sure she fully recovered from it because in the second half I know it was bothering her.”
Despite the loss, the Lady Bears finished a school record 25-1 with MEC and County titles, and ranked 3rd in the final polls.
Plenty to be proud of, even though it may take awhile to realize all they accomplished.
“This season will be one to remember for the girls. Right now they are still numb from the loss but in a few months, I’m sure it will sink in that they accomplished something that may never be duplicated,” Barga said. “Undefeated season, most wins in a season, county title, Amy Meyer Holiday tournament championship, MEC conference championship and sectional runners up. Not a bad season at all.”
It is tough saying goodbye to a great group of seniors who won 2 sectional titles in their careers not to mention having the career scoring leader in their midst.
“The seniors will be truly missed,” Barga said. “They had a lot of success in their 4 years at MC. Regional runner up, two sectional championships, two county championships, three MEC conference championships and a record of 79-24, not to mention the most wins in a season and undefeated season as well.”