By Mike Myers
JASPER - A Washington Lady Hatchet squad which exhibited plenty of heart during a 14-win regular season saw its 2012-13 campaign end in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday with a 47-46 loss to Jasper in opening round action of Sectional 31 at Cabby O'Neill Gymnasium.
Washington (14-7) trailed Jasper (13-9) 46-43 after the Wildcats' Maddison Ubelhor, who led all scorers with 18 points, hit a pair of free throws with :51 on the clock. On the Lady Hatchets' next possession, Ally Hunsinger missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, only to see teammate Audra Stallman gather in the rebound and kick it out to Audra Lane on the wing.
Lane then attempted a trey of her own and found the bottom of the net, knotting the score at 46-all with :21 remaining. Following a timeout, the Lady Wildcats turned the ball over on their next possession, and Lady Hatchet coach Gretchen Miles called timeout with her team in possession just past midcourt and 9.3 seconds on the game clock.
But the play Miles drew up in the timeout never materialized. On the inbounds play, the ball went to Lane, who appeared to catch the pass while straddling midcourt. However, Lane was whistled for an over and back violation, a call which was questioned vigorously by the WHS coaching staff, to no avail.
In possession with 8.1 seconds left, Jasper called time. When play resumed, the Lady Wildcats in bounded to Ubelhor, who drove straight to the basket and was fouled in the act with 2.3 seconds on the clock. Ubelhor's first shot was good, giving Jasper a 47-46 lead. Her next shot was off the mark and was rebounded by Hunsinger, who briefly dribbled up court before launching a desperation 3-pointer from well beyond halfcourt which was short of the basket as time expired.
Following the difficult loss, Miles said the controversial call at the end of the game wasn't necessarily the difference for her team.
"It was just two very good ball clubs that went at it tonight. It was just a great ballgame on both ends of the floor. From a coaching standpoint, right now you don't really have time to enjoy or try to figure out what you would have done differently," said Miles. "But what it came down to was, even though one play might have a made a difference at the end of the game, we have to look at what happened throughout the entire game.
"Jasper is a very, very good ball club. You can tell with the way they carry themselves that they are three-time defending champions," said Miles. "They played very well. And our kids did too. They battled for 32 minutes, you saw runs going each way."
It was close game throughout. The largest team either team held was a brief, seven-point lead for WHS at 17-10 on a Lupe Perez 3-pointer to open the second quarter. Perez led WHS with 10 points, followed by nine points apiece from Lane, Stallman, and Hunsinger. Hannah Mason added seven points for WHS, followed by two from Cheyenne Jones. Jasper didn't take its first lead of the contest until early in the third quarter, and the Lady Wildcats built a four-point margin at 33-29 before the Lady Hatchets went on a 7-0 run to finish the quarter and forge a 36-33 lead heading into the final period.
Washington led throughout the first half, including 14-10 after eight minutes of play and 24-21 at halftime. Perez topped WHS with 10 points a the break, followed by eight from Hunsinger.
The loss brought to a close Washington's third straight winning season, and despite the bitter end Miles hoped her team, and especially her seniors - Lane, Mason, and Kristen Lundy - would remember the many successes the Lady Hatchets enjoyed this season.
"You hate to see it come down to a game like that, and you hate to see the seniors especially end their career in a game like this. The next couple of days, it's going to sting a little bit, but that part of athletics," said Miles. "But I hope all of these girls, and especially the seniors, will reflect on just what a successful career they've had, and what positive role models they’ve been for our program."
Jasper will face Vincennes Lincoln (7-14) in the second game on Friday. Action on Friday will tip off with Mitchell (14-5), a 44-41 winner over Heritage Hills (12-10) in Tuesday’s first game, facing Pike Central (5-16) at 6:30 p.m.