The Lady Tigers found themselves behind with 70 seconds left in Thursday’s Dublin Athletic Booster Club Tournament opener, but Glen Rose made some crucial plays down the stretch to move to 6-0.
Glen Rose was able to beat Tolar 41-38 despite the purple squad winning the fourth quarter. Fortunately, those final 70 seconds of game action were all about the Lady Tigers.
“Tolar did an exceptional job,” said coach Sheree Hill. “To me, that was our toughest game and it wasn’t one of our better games. We made some mental mistakes defensively, missed some easy shots, plus we didn’t rebound as well as we normally do. Our effort was there and it was a good win because we needed to get pushed; we were lucky to squeak it out.”
Senior point guard Reilly Junge led the charge with 17 points, and she had a personal 4-0 run that decided the game in the final minute.
“I think this game was mainly about us not executing on a lot of things and it took us a while to get going,” Junge said. “We were better as the game went on. Being a senior, (6-0) feels good because in my four years on the team I’ve never done it before. It’s pretty cool.”
Other scorers included Kayla Goebel (8), Destiny Ponce (6), Kelsey Potter (4), Shelby Rotan (2), Kiffany Kelly (2) and Madi Gibson (2).
The teams went toe-to-toe throughout a very close first half, including a 10-10 first quarter. Junge started fast by hitting a three and putting up six first-quarter points, while Ponce capitalized on her opportunity in hitting her first two free throws.
“Sometimes (shots) fall, sometimes they don’t,” Junge said. “(Thursday) they were falling.”
Hill could tell early Tolar came to play.
“Tolar was very physical from the start, and I think we just had to wake up,” she said. “We had some missed shots and got frustrated. We have to learn not to let other teams take us out of our game; credit Tolar being aggressive with us.”
The second quarter was also an even affair, as the teams headed into the half at 21-21. Goebel took a Ponce pass and drained a wing three to open the quarter, while Tolar actually hit a trio of threes in the frame.
“I don’t know if Tolar always shoots like that, but they shot very well,” Hill said.
While inside misses and few offensive rebounds gave Glen Rose trouble in the second, at least the Lady Tigers consistently got back in transition defensively to prevent uncontested Tolar paint points.
“They were jogging; we were in better shape and that helped us out,” Junge said. “I felt like we definitely should’ve outrebounded them. Once we started realizing how important the boards were we did better.”
Junge was a steal machine in this game, and in the middle of the second she stole the ball and got it ahead to Potter in transition for a layup. Late in the half, Gibson’s aggressiveness was evident as she got to the free throw line from a steal and then from an offensive board.
“Madi played some big minutes and was tough on the boards,” Hill said of the freshman.
“Madi is getting a lot tougher and is going to be awesome,” Junge added.
Tolar hit a baseline jumper at the end of the half to tie the score, which Hill wasn’t happy about.
“We were having a hard time offensively, but we had to hang in there defensively,” she said. “Other than the open jumper we gave them at the (halftime) buzzer, I thought we did that.”
The Lady Tigers were at their best to win the third quarter 12-6. Junge had four steals in the quarter and Goebel blocked a shot.
“We definitely picked it up, and having good defense made us score more,” Junge said.
Hill was pleased to see her squad ramp up the pressure.
“I thought we picked up our defense a little bit in the third,” she said. “We changed up our press and that helped.”
Shortly after Junge assisted Goebel on a pull-up jumper, Rotan found Goebel for a wing three. Junge stole the ball and Gibson soon assisted her on a wing three for a 31-25 lead.
“When we start to hit that rhythm, the rest of the team feeds off of it,” Junge said.
Kelly scored in transition to keep Glen Rose up six heading to the fourth quarter.
While Tolar was crashing the offensive boards early in the quarter, so was Goebel with two of her own.
“Kayla did a good job rebounding, especially considering Tolar did a good job of blocking us out,” Hill said. “Kayla did a better job of getting around their players in the second half.”
While the Lady Tigers had some turnover trouble, Tolar was playing pretty well and five-straight made free throws gave it a 37-36 lead.
“We bailed them out with fouls several times when we had them where we wanted them,” Hill said. “That’s a discipline thing.”
In the final minute, Junge stepped to the charity stripe and made both of her attempts to put her squad back in front for good. In perhaps the play of the game seconds later, she actually stole the ball while behind the Tolar player and sped down the court for a transition layup (40-37).
“When it’s that close of a game, you have to put everything behind you,” Junge said. “I’ve been in a free throw slump, but I made them at the end when it counted.”
Hill credited Junge for stepping up.
“That gave us a breather,” Hill said. “It sure was clutch by Reilly. There’s nobody we’d rather have at the free throw line in that situation, and then she gets the steal for the layup.”
Ponce then took her second charge of the quarter and made a free throw shortly thereafter to complete a 5-0 run.
“That was definitely a game changer, especially the second charge at the end,” Junge said. “She’s good at doing that.”
Hill noted how Ponce consistently gets her feet set and in position to draw charges.
Tolar got back within three points, but it missed a three-pointer at game’s end with Junge getting the rebound.
“Last year we lost a bunch of games by two or three points,” Hill said. “We’ve emphasized finishing this year, and I was very pleased with how we defended the inbounds play at the end. Reilly and Kelsey played it terrifically.”
The Lady Tigers now face Bangs at 9 a.m. on Friday with the winner advancing to Saturday’s tourney championship.
“Our goal is to win this tournament and go into our tournament (9-0),” Junge said.
Hill knows her team is capable.
“We have to be awake and ready to roll (Friday) if we want to get to the championship,” the coach said.