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Fort Frye rallies late to defeat River in D4

Photo/KAYLA RUBLE River’s Lauren Flannery (10) drives during Wednesday’s game inside Meadowbrook High School.

BYESVILLE — Rick Isaly has been around the game of basketball for a long time, both as a talented player and as a successful head coach. He’s had some highs and some lows during his tenure as the River girls basketball coach. However, not many of the lows compare to what he experienced Wednesday night.

The second-seeded Pilots (20-5) held a seemingly comfortable 9-point lead over No. 3 Fort Frye with 3-minutes, 29-seconds remaining, but the battle-tested Cadets went on a game-ending 15-2 run to claim the Division IV District semi-final contest, 38-34, inside Meadowbrook High School.

Next up for Fort Frye (21-4) is a date with top-seeded Shadyside on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Cambridge High School.

“I don’t know if the girls got tired, their legs got tired or what, but we missed a lot of easy shots,” Isaly said. “Mental mistakes also hurt. We left players wide open for 3s in the fourth quarter that allowed them to get back in the game. That gave them the momentum.”

River led 32-23 after senior standout Lauren Flannery drove to the basket and scored. Little did anyone know that would be the final field goal by the Hannibal-based quint. The other two points came on free throws.

“When we were 6-7 points down and started to make that run, I could see it in their eyes,” veteran Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke said. “We had been playing so passive the whole game, but we were only down 6-7. Our defense really won us this game in the second half.”

Following a timeout by the Beverly-based Cadets, Morgan Borich jump-started the comeback with a three-pointer from the top of the key. A pair of free throws from Hannah Archer made it 32-28. After Flannery made 1-of-2 free throws for a 33-28 reading, Borich buried another triple from the same spot as Liedtke called a 30-second timeout.

Kenzie Dalton tied the game at 33 with a steal at midcourt and the ensuing layup with 2:02 left to play. Archer’s basket with 1:31 remaining gave the designated visitors their first lead since 17-16 in the second quarter. It was also a lead the Cadets would not relinquish.

Allie Long made it a one-point game, 35-34, with a free throw before Fort Frye’s Karlee Ross was fouled with 28.1 seconds showing. She misfired on the front end of the bonus situation and River grabbed the rebound. However, a Pilot player was guilty of a lane violation, thus giving Ross new life. She responded by tickling the twine twice for a 37-34 margin.

River misfired and Ross rebounded and was fouled once again. This time she made the first but missed the second. As luck would have it, the Cadets collected the loose ball as the clock ran out.

“It’s tough. This is the worst scenario you can have when you have to go in the lockerroom and tell the girls, especially the seniors, that this was their last game,” Isaly said while holding back his emotions. “Lauren’s in there taking it (the loss) pretty hard. It’s a bad situation.

“We, as coaches, tried to tell them we had a good year. We won an OVAC title and we had 20 wins, but that doesn’t take away from what happened tonight.”

The Pilots trapping pressure defense befuddled the Cadets in the first three quarters as they committed 19 of their 20 turnovers.

“We got a lot of turnovers, but we didn’t capitalize on many,” Isaly noted. “We missed some easy shots in the first half. If we make those shots we’re up double digits and who knows what could’ve happened. But we didn’t and they (Fort Frye) made the plays when they needed to.”

Liedtke praised the effort of his squad.

“We had three girls that were extremely sick. We came here Monday and had a great practice. I felt good about everything, but then we wake up Tuesday and we have three that are so sick they could barely practice,” Liedtke said. “This is not the way you go into a district (semifinal), but we went ahead with our walk-through and stuff. I knew if they could just get out there and gut it out that anything was possible.”

Flannery led all scorers with 23 points, but only three other Pilots cracked the scoring column. Long finished with seven points and a like number of rebounds. Candace Caldwell garnered game honors with 11 boards as River claimed a 26-20 edge off the glass. Flannery also charted five steals.

Borich led a balanced attack with 11 points.

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