by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
Exciting. Heart-stopping. Tense. Draining.
There are so many ways to describe Rogers City’s heartbreaking 46-43 double-overtime loss to Bellaire in Thursday’s regional final. Heartbreaking might be the best way to describe the outcome of the game for Huron players and fans.
“I’m not going to let the girls be too down about this. I know this is tied with the farthest Rogers City has ever gone before. Of course we would have liked to have won, but what are you going to say—double-overtime and we lose by three. We left everything we had out on the court so I am proud of them for that,” said Huron coach Duane Pitts.
Bellaire took a slower, careful style of play using several passes trying to wear down the Huron defense before getting an open shot. Rogers City has the athletes to play a fast-paced game, using defense to set up shots under the basket or to find a sniper for a 3-pointer.
That style clashed on the game’s opening possessions, setting the tone for the game. Rogers City won the tip and missed a quick shot. Bellaire ran a patient offense, snared two offensive rebounds to reset before hitting a short jumper. Rogers City countered with 3-point sniper Sydney Purgiel draining one from the left corner before Bellaire could set up defensively. And so it went, back and forth throughout the game.
The Hurons (18-5) led 11-8 in a slow-paced first quarter and scored only four points in the second quarter for a 15-15 tie at halftime. The points came from another 3-pointer from Purgiel on the first possession of the quarter and a free throw from her with 14 seconds left in the half.
Another slow moving third quarter found the Hurons trailing 21-19 heading into the final frame. Rogers City managed only four points, on two field goals by Kayla Rabeau while missing all four free throw attempts in the frame. Rabeau’s second basket came at the 5:57 mark of the third quarter and the Hurons were shut out the rest of the quarter.
The fourth quarter began the same way the third quarter ended, with Bellaire patiently working the first 90 seconds off the game clock. Hannah Fleming’s free throw with 30 seconds left in regulation time sent the game into overtime tied at 30-30. She hit 2-of-2 free throws and Jayna Hance added a bucket as each team scored four in the extra time to send it to a second overtime period tied at 34-34.
In the second OT, turnovers cost the Hurons on three consecutive possessions, allowing Bellaire to go up 39-34 with 2:20 left in the second overtime. Rabeau, who led the Hurons with 10 points, hit two free throws to make the score 44-40 and bring back a glimmer of hope with 26 seconds left. After a timeout, Pitts set up a press at the end line and it nearly worked. Linnea Hentkowski stole the ball but a 3-pointer bounced off the rim as Bellaire snared the rebound and Taylor Fleming was forced to commit her fifth foul. Lexi Neipoth, who led all scorers with 27 points, hit one-of-two and a missed shot on the other end by the Hurons with 15 seconds left sealed the win for Bellaire.
“We had our chances where we could have won it and they had some too before it ever got to double-overtime. We told our girls there is nothing to hang out heads about. We played hard and gave it everything we had. Some things didn’t go our way but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Give (Bellaire) credit. They got a little more done than we did. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to somebody and they deserved it,” Pitts said.
(More details will be in the March 15 edition of the Advance)