While its season came to an end Saturday evening, Trinity Lutheran’s girls basketball team left a legacy on the program.
The Cougars finished with a school record 22 wins, a sectional championship and made an Elite 8 appearance this winter.
This past weekend, at the West Washington Regional, the Cougars won their first-ever regional game by topping Northeast Dubois before falling to Class A No. 2 Vincennes Rivet in the title game.
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“This has been a magical season,” Cougars coach Mike Lang said. “It is one I will never forget, and one the players will never forget. The sad part about this is that we don’t get to go into practice (today) and be around these kids. We don’t get to play again next weekend.
But, the memories they have made on this program — they have made a stamp. When we took this over seven years ago, making the Elite 8 was never in the dreams. The hard-work and sacrifice they’ve put in is a message to the younger kids of how hard you have to work to get here. Once you’re here, it’s pretty darn cool.”
Cougars fall to Rivet
Trinity ran into the buzzsaw that is Rivet in the finals.
Rivet (25-2) — winners of 11-straight games — used balanced scoring and smoldering speed to come away with a 52-36 victory of the Cougars (22-6).
Five straight points from Piper Acton gave the Cougars a 5-2 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
The Patriots answered with an 8-0 run — propelled by four points from Grace Waggoner and another four by Molly Niehause — to give Rivet a 10-5 advantage with 3:01 on the clock.
Following a basket by Abby Hackman, the Patriots scored six unanswered points to lead 16-7 at the end of eight minutes of play.
In the opening quarter, struggling with the Patriots’ quickness, the Cougars turned the ball over eight times and racked up five quick fouls.
The Patriots went on a 10-3 run through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to lead 26-10.
A 3-pointer by Jaynes, basket by Savannah Harweger and free throw by Jodi Goecker then cut the Cougars’ deficit to 12 points with 2:09 left in the half.
At the break, the Patriots held a 29-16 lead.
At intermission, the Cougars had eight fouls to the Patriots’ three infringements.
The Patriots went on an 11-2 to open the third quarter to build a 38-20 lead. However, in the final 3:48 of the quarter the Cougars responded.
Trinity tacked on 11 points, led by 3-pointers by Jaynes and Harweger, to cut the deficit to 46-32 going into the fourth quarter.
“At halftime, we talked about how we wanted to come out and be the first one to throw a big punch in the third quarter,” Lang said. “Unfortunately, they did. I felt after their run, we played right there with them, or better than them, for the course of the game. When you’re playing a team that’s this talented, good and quick, it’s tough to dig out of that hole.”
In the final eight minutes, neither team could find the bottom of the basket as the Patriots outscored the Cougars 6-4.
Abby Hackman, the only Trinity player to score in double figures, led the Cougars with 12 points. Waggoner topped the Patriots’ box with 17 points, Niehaus added 11 and Tia Tolbert chipped in 10.
Trinity was out rebounded 23-21 and had 18 turnovers to the Patriots’ 14.
Hackman, Acton, Goecker and Savanna Setty will all graduate from Trinity’s program.
“If I try to put words into what these seniors meant to this program, I would be short-changing them,” Lang said. “They’ve meant everything to this program. It is senior leadership that carried us all year long. If it isn’t for those four seniors, every day in practice and in games, we wouldn’t have been where we were at (Saturday). They’re leaving a legacy here that is going to be tough to beat for a long time. I love them and I’m going to miss them.”
Cougars edge Jeeps
Trinity came up clutch in the final minutes of play to come away with a 43-41 semifinals win over Northeast Dubois (17-8) on Saturday afternoon.
Tied at 38, with 1:19 left, Jaynes scored on an up-and-under to give the Cougasr the lead.
Following a stop, the Cougars split free throws to push the lead to three with 1:04 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Harweger blocked a Jeeps 3-point attempt and the got the ball into Hackman’s hands.
Hackman went to the line and sank both free throws, with 10.9 seconds left, to help pad the lead.
The Jeeps’ Clare Mangin drilled a 3-pointer as time expired to make it a two-point game, but the shot proved too late for a comeback.
“We told Sydney at halftime that the best defender out there guarding her is in her head,” Lang said. “They couldn’t stop Syd. We told her to use the moves we worked on in practice, and that’s what she did.
“I will take those kids in those positions (at the end) all day long. We got it where we wanted it, and Abby sealed the deal. It started with our defensive pressure up top, not letting their shooters get good looks. They paid attention in the huddle, went out, and executed.”
In a low-scoring first quarter, the Cougars fell behind by five points before baskets by Hackman and Maddie Bell tied the game at seven with 53 seconds on the clock.
Goecker then hit one from deep with three seconds left to put the Cougars up 10-7.
A 7-0 Cougars run extended the lead to 19-10, but the Jeeps answered.
In the final 3:17 of the first half, the Jeeps scored 10 unanswered points behind four different scorers, to lead 20-19 at the break.
Out of intermission, the teams traded the lead twice, and tied as many times, before a 3-pointer by Goecker put the Cougars on top 28-27 by the 2:30-mark.
A basket by Kortney Quinn gave the Jeeps the league back at 31-30 with two ticks left in the third quarter.
Down 37-35, Harweger hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Cougars the lead back at 38-37 with 3:40 left in the game.
Down the stretch, the Cougars came up in the clutch.
Hackman led the Cougars with 13 points and Clare Mangin led the Jeeps with 11.
Both teams finished with 19 rebounds and the Cougars took the turnover margin 8-14.