New Albany outscored Seymour 14-5 over the final four minutes of Tuesday night’s game in Class 4A Sectional 15 at Bedford and went home with a 55-45 win.
When Lauren James hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key two minutes into the fourth quarter, it left the Owls trailing 41-40 and brought a loud roar from the Seymour cheering section.
The Bulldogs made four straight free throws to go up 45-40 before Emilee Pollmann scored on a move to the basket to narrow the difference to three points with 3:20 remaining.
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New Albany added 10 free throws over the final 1:36 to increase its lead. The Bulldogs made 14 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter and 22 of 34 overall, as the Owls were called for 23 fouls. The Owls made 13 of 20 at the line, and the Bulldogs were called for 15 fouls.
“The kids battled,” Owls coach Jason Longmeier said. “They fought for 32 minutes, and unfortunately at the end, we had to foul. Give New Albany credit, they made their free throws down the stretch.”
This game did not start out well for the Owls. They missed their first three shots from the floor and had two turnovers, and that allowed the Bulldogs to open a 9-0 lead after 2½ minutes.
Mikayla Fee made a layup at 3:55 for a 9-2 score, and Pollmann added a bucket in the final minutes for a 15-4 count at the end of the quarter.
The Owls shot 2 for 7 and committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter. Jenna Shine and Marissa Jones made 3-point baskets, and Ashley Lyninger added two baskets inside to spark the Bulldogs to their early lead.
“I think any time you get down 15-2 like we were and you’ve got to scrap and claw to get your way back into it, it takes a lot of energy away from you and a lot of emotion,” Longmeier said.
“With that being said, I thought our kids fought like crazy, got it to a one-possession game, but I thought our problem was when we got it to one, we played like we were still down 10. We needed to be a little more patient with the ball and focus on getting our look instead of the look they wanted us to get.”
The Owls, sparked by three baskets by Fee and a 3-pointer from Morgan Ritz, outscored the Bulldogs 18-9 in the second quarter to pull within 24-22 at the half.
The Bulldogs used a 9-5 run the first four minutes of the third quarter to take a 33-27 lead and stayed on top 38-33 going into the fourth quarter.
Seymour committed 17 turnovers, and New Albany had 10 for the game.
Several times in the second half, when the Owls were set to go on a run and cut into New Albany’s lead, they committed one of the eight turnovers they had in the second half.
“Turnovers in the sectional are compounded,” Longmeier said. “They are really hard to overcome. Sometimes we had people in right spots and didn’t get the ball there, and sometimes we didn’t have people in the right spots, and to cover up some things, we just made some crucial mistakes.”
Fee topped the Owls (18-5) in scoring with 11 points, and Ritz had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Jones topped the Bulldogs (16-7) with 15 points.
“I thought Jones hit some big 3s off some ball-screen action that we didn’t want to leave (Chyna) Anthony,” Longmeier said. “I thought there were some really crucial parts of the game that the call could have went one way or the other, and they kind of went against us.”
Longmeier said it was hard for him to address his team after the game.
“That’s one of the hardest locker rooms I’ve ever left,” he said. “The fact that these kids have been with me since I got here, these five seniors have done everything we’ve asked them to. They’re great character kids. They’re some of the best kids in our building, and it’s a tough way for them to finish their career.”