By Dennis Glade
The Washington Times-Herald
WASHINGTON — The short-handed Washington girls basketball team started slow, but a vigorous second half comeback wasn't enough to ensure a victory on Senior Night.
Class A No. 9 Washington (15-3) fell to North Knox (15-4) 40-34 Saturday at the Hatchet House on a night seniors' Ally Hunsinger, Lupe Perez and Audra Stallman were honored before the game. The Hatchets were without Perez (sprained ankle) and Shawna Webb (concussion) and lost Carrie Lane in the second quarter to an wrist injury.
After a first half to forget for Washington, the Hatchets came out with an inspired second half effort and it started with Hunsinger in her final home game.
Whatever halftime speech Washington coach Gretchen Miles gave in the locker room certainly worked — the Hatchets looked like a different team when the second half started. Washington opened the third quarter with back-to-back baskets from Cheyenne Jones and the first points of the night for Hunsinger on a 3-pointer. With North Knox's lead cut 21-17, the Warriors took a timeout. Out of the timeout, Charlton and Lexi Vieck connected on two 3-pointers, but Hunsinger added two treys of her own to keep Washington within striking distance. Washington closed the quarter trailing by just a point, 29-28, after 11 points from Hunsinger.
"Ally (Hunsinger) is a competitive scorer and she knows you just have to keep shooting the basketball like you've never missed," Miles said. "She stepped up for us big time in that third quarter to be able to do that. I thought we had a lot more shots inside with (Cheyenne) Jones and (Audra) Stallman in the third quarter and we were able to take advantage of those mismatches in there."
Gugliotta opened the fourth quarter with a basket to put the Warriors up 31-28, but Washington answered with a basket each from Hunsinger, Jones and Stallman to take its first lead since the first quarter. Washington led 34-31 after the spurt and forced a North Knox timeout with 2:29 to play in regulation. Out of the timeout, Charlton hit a 3-pointer and Vieck scored three straight baskets to finish off the Hatchets.
"North Knox is a very good ball club and they made big plays down the stretch," Miles said. "We left (Lauren) Charlton open off a set play coming out of a timeout and she's a scorer and she knocked that in. That second half I thought the kids played gutsy, they grinded it out and really tried to fight to get themselves back in there — it was just too little too late to try to pull this one out."
The Warriors trailed by one after one quarter, but the second quarter was complete domination in favor of North Knox, thanks to eight points from Maria Gugliotta and three each from Lauren Charlton and Shelby Doades. The Warriors outscored the Hatchets 14-2 in the quarter to take a 21-10 lead into halftime. Miles didn't think the Senior Night festivities prior to the game had any impact on Washington's play in the first half.
"We have the mentality of our seniors that they're able to multi-task," Miles said. "Tonight was about them before the game to acknowledge all the success in the past four years, but they also know when it is time to play it's time to play. We just didn't get off to a very good start of taking care of the basketball. We just couldn't find the basket in the first half. When you can't take care of the ball and you can't find the basket, it's hard to win games."
The pregame ceremony that honored the Stallman, Hunsinger and Perez, also recognized senior student manager Ashlyn Stoll. Every senior night is special for a program like Washington's and this year was no different for Miles.
"We were very appreciative of all the people that came out to not only honor the team, but honor the senior's and I think as a coaching staff we are the fortunate ones to have the three seniors that we do on our team with Ally, Lupe and Audra. Over their four years, they have really helped get the Lady Hatchet program back on the map. They are just three top notch, not only athletes, but they are all top 10 of their class academically and they are fantastic people. Not only are we going to miss those three seniors, but Washington High School will."
Jones led all scorers with 15 points and six rebounds, followed by Hunsinger with 13 points and four rebounds and two assists. Stallman added four points and Jenna Johnson had two. Washington outrebounded North Knox 18-15.
Miles said she doesn't believe Perez will be available for Thursday's season finale at Evansville Harrison, but the senior guard should be back for the sectional, which starts Feb. 11 at Vincennes Lincoln. As far as Webb and Lane, Miles said she isn't expecting them to be available the rest of the season.
"We have to continue to get better," Miles said. "We have kids that we will continue to develop and ask coaches we have to have a back up plan and then another back up plan, so that when kids come in they are confident in that role. We have to continue to work on our ball handling in pressure situations and rebounding as well as the little things like you normally do this time of year."