It was just one of those nights for local teams at the Class 2A Eastern Sectional.
The postseason ended just asa quickly as it began for both Henryville and Clarksville on Tuesday night, and the losses ended up following very similar scripts.
The Hornets let an early lead slip away and a late rally came up short in a 45-40 defeat at the hands of Paoli. Meanwhile, Clarksville likewise led throughout the first half before falling victim to a third-quarter surge and couldn’t fully recover in a 49-42 loss to Crawford County.
The tough luck of Tuesday leaves Providence as the last Clark County team standing. The Pioneers, who drew a bye to the semifinals, will meet Paoli on Friday night. In the other semi, the host Musketeers will play Crawford County, with the winners to meet for the championship on Saturday night.
PAOLI 45, HENRYVILLE 40
It may have come down to a single shot.
Down 34-31 with less than six minutes left to play, Henryville sophomore Emily Hollis launched a 3-pointer from the left side. It bounced hard off the rim, high into the air and halfway into the basket before popping out and into the arms of Paoli.
Although the Hornets would eventually get within a point moments later, it was that chance that seemed to be Henryville’s best.
Paoli soon answered with driving baskets from Olivia Brewster and Morgan Kingston that pushed the lead to five at 38-33 and seemed to finally deflate a Henryville team that pushed Paoli (15-7) to the limit.
Still, Henryville made it tight to the very end.
Back-to-back baskets from Lesa Dallas and Hannah Nunn — both assisted by Hollis — pulled the Hornets to within 40-38 with than two minutes left in regulation. Following a Paoli layup earned by breaking the Henryville press, a jumper by Haley Huddleston again pulled the Hornets to within a possession with 50 seconds to go.
Paoli again managed an easy basket and, down four points, Henryville could get no closer and finally ran out of time.
“It was good to say we played hard,” said Henryville coach Josh Conrad, “but in this situation, obviously, you want to finish it out and win the game. I’m glad we competed after we lost the lead and we could have folded it up. Paoli is a very good team.”
Seemingly aware it was in the underdog role, Henryville started fast, getting good looks at the rim and finishing enough of them to take an 8-3 lead after a Hollis layup on a long outlet pass from Tami Burgin. A Burgin putback gave Henryville a 12-7 edge after the first eight minutes.
Once the Rams heated up from outside, the Henryville lead wasn’t going to last long.
The Hornets still led 14-9 when the first 3 from Brewster fell through the net. Henryville would quickly answer on a drive from Hollis, but that would be the Hornets’ last basket of the first half.
It came with 5:26 still on the clock.
In the meantime, Paoli ran off the next 10 points, getting another trey from Brewster and one from Kingston. A pair of baskets off offensive rebounds staked the Rams to a 26-16 edge at the intermission.
“There was about an eight-play stretch where we just missed every shot we took in the paint,” Conrad said. “In a game where you get a bit of a lead, you can really build it by hitting those shots right there. And when we missed, it lead to them getting into their transition offense.”
A 3 and a free throw from Paoli’s Kelsey Smith gave Paoli its largest lead at 31-22 with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Henryville hung tough, cutting the deficit back to two, at 32-30 early in the final quarter on two more baskets from Hollis.
Brewster led Paoli with 16 points, while Kingston added 10.
It was the final game for two seniors on the Henryville roster in Burgin and Sadie Spears. The rest of the roster, led by sophomores Hollis (14 points) and Huddleston (eight points, four steals) will return to do battle next season.
“Those two seniors have been a great asset to our program,” said Conrad of Burgin and Spears. “They showed what it is to work hard. We have a good core coming back, and if they make the decision to build their skills — and I think they will — we’ll be ready for next October.”