Despite recent struggles against top-notch competition, Lincoln's girls basketball team appeared to be in position to put one in the win column against reigning Class A state champion Loogootee on Tuesday.
But Brooklynn Jones poured in all 10 of the fifth-ranked Lions' points in the final stanza, and the Alices turned it over on their final scoring chance in a 47-46 loss at Alice Arena.
The loss marred an outstanding performance from Lincoln junior Dani Kroeger, who scored 20 points with 12 rebounds, both season-highs, to go with five steals. Maycee Lange was next for Lincoln (6-6) with 13 points, and Faith Fleetwood scored eight. Jones finished with a game-high 23 points.
The loss was the Alices' fifth in their last seven games, but all seven of those opponents had three or fewer losses before playing Lincoln, and they entered Tuesday with a combined winning percentage of .787 (70-19).
Neither team led by more than five points Tuesday in a game that had five ties and seven lead changes. Lincoln coach Tim Young was disappointed with his team's inability to finish off a victory against the Lions (10-3), whose win gave coach Brian Smith 100 for his career.
“You can't take anything away from Loogootee. They're an excellent team, and Brian does an excellent job with those eight seniors,” he said. “But it's frustrating from a coaching perspective. When our girls get tired, they quit. They execute enough to get a six, seven point lead, but then they start resting. Maybe I'm the wrong man for the job. I'm doing the same things I've done for 30 years of coaching, and it's just not working.”
Fleetwood broke a tie with a 3-pointer that put the Alices ahead, 44-41, with 2:22 remaining. After both teams missed open shots in an up-tempo pace, Jones put in a layup with 1:44 left to cut the gap to one. Following an Alices' turnover, Jones scored again to give her team the lead, 45-44, with 1:10 left.
Fleetwood missed a 3-pointer after a Lincoln timeout, but Kroeger was there for the put-back bucket to give the Alices the lead, and she was fouled with 37 seconds remaining. Kroeger missed the free throw that would have extended the lead to two, and Jones canned a 15-footer from left of the elbow with 22 seconds to play that proved to be the game winner.
Young called a timeout with :08 showing to set up a final play, but a miscommunication on the inbounds brought a second defender to a driving Lange, and she was stripped of the possession. Lincoln fouled after the turnover with two seconds left, but since the Alices still had two fouls to give before putting Loogootee in the bonus, the Lions ran out the clock after inbounding it.
Eight of Lincoln's 17 turnovers came in the final 11 minutes.
“We had two or three chances to put that game away, then we had a chance at the end,” Young said. “The scouting report was simple, that we can't let Jones shoot from 15 feet and in, and her last two jumpers, we left her wide open. Five girls just stood and watched. That's just a lack of execution.”
Lincoln built a 7-2 advantage before Kalea Fleming caught fire. She managed the next 11 Lions' points, and helped her team to a 15-12 lead after one. Fleming was shut out in the second quarter and managed just three points the rest of the game thanks to the Gracie Krame's hounding defense.
Jones owned the second period with nine points, including three free throws with 1.5 seconds left that broke a tie and lifted Loogootee to a 28-25 halftime edge.
Kroeger nearly had a double-double at intermission with nine points and nine rebounds.
“(Kroeger) just refused to lose. She kept attacking, got rebounds and loose balls, and she single-handedly kept us in the game,” Young said. “Gracie did a great job defending Fleming after we switched her over to her. McKinsie Halter gave us good effort off the bench as well. Those three gave all they had. But I coach a team. We can't win as individuals. We had missed bunnies, travels, and just let their point guard take it away from us at the top of the key. I can't explain those things, and I'm not sure I've ever coached a team that made so many unforced turnovers.”
The Alices were down, 33-30, when they put together seven in a row, capped off by Kroeger's steal-and-score, to go up four with 3:19 left in the third. But all three of Lincoln's turnovers in that stanza came in the final three minutes as Loogootee pulled even, 37-37, by the end of the quarter.
Loogootee's junior varsity won, 29-18. Mattye Meadows scored six points to pace the Alices (2-9).
The Alices hosted Evansville Central at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and visit Evansville North at 6:30 p.m. today.
LOOGOOTEE 47, LINCOLN 46
Jones (f) 8-12 7-7 23, M. VanHoy (f) 1-7 0-0 2, K. VanHoy 4-11 0-0 8, Waggner (g) 0-1 0-0 0, Fleming (g) 5-11 1-2 14, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Nolley 0-2 0-0. Totals: 18-44 8-9 47.
Lange (f) 5-12 2-3 13, Cardinal (f) 2-6 0-0 5, Fleetwood (g) 3-8 0-0 8, Kramer (g) 0-0 0-0 0, Kroeger (g) 6-14 6-8 20, Halter 0-1 0-0 0, Sexton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-49 8-11 46.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Loogootee |15-13-9-10 — 47
Lincoln |12-13-12-9 — 46
3-pointers: Loogootee 3-13 (Fleming 3-5, Jones 0-2, M.VanHoy 0-5, Nolley 0-1), Lincoln 6-21 (Fleetwood 2-7, Kroeger 2-7, Lange 1-3, Cardinal 1-4). Rebounds: Loogootee 20 (Jones 8), Lincoln 25 (Kroeger 12). Turnovers: Loogootee 12, Lincoln 17. Fouls: Loogootee 9, Lincoln 7. JV: Loogootee 29-18.