DIXON — The United Township High School girls' basketball team held the lead for quite awhile but could not hold the momentum when it counted.|
As a result, the Panthers fell to Oregon 52-47 in the championship quarterfinals of the Dixon Girls Tournament Friday night. UT, now 8-7, will face Dunlap (7-7) — which lost to Rockford Boylan 45-41 — in a fifth-place semifinal game at 10:30 this morning.
Switching from a half-court zone into a man-to-man defense at halftime appeared to inspire Oregon (12-3). After trailing by as many as five points three minutes into the second half, the Hawks went on a 14-4 spurt and never looked back. Although UT committed just 14 turnovers to Oregon's 23, the Panthers' mistakes seemingly came at critical moments.
A pair of steals by McKaylee Beeter and another by Emylyn Wright came in the final 1 minute, 22 seconds of the game, allowing Oregon to keep a firm grip on the outcome.
"We were tentative on offense," UT coach Justin Shiltz said. "I thought we'd have an easier time getting the ball inside. We were able to get it in there, but we couldn't finish at the basket. And you can't do that and expect to win against a team like Oregon."
Sadie Roberts did have success attacking the interior – leading the Panthers with 14 points – all coming in the second half. But UT had no other offensive threat in the final 7:20 of the game.
"We didn't rebound very well and missed a lot of easy shots," said UT point guard Jen VanWatermeulen. "Plus, we weren't communicating very well and talking like we need to. We were slow moving to the open spots."
On the other hand, Oregon had little trouble finding the seams in the UT defense, as four of its starting five scored in double figures. Wright, who led the Hawks with 17 points and eight rebounds, was able to attack from the left side. Bree Tourtillott added 11 points, six of which helped kick-start the Hawks scoring run.
"(Oregon) really didn't do much on offense, but their best players made crucial shots," Shiltz said. "Plus, (Oregon point guard Samantha) Lambrigsten was able to get the ball into the lane to create easy shots. Credit them: they were able to get good looks."
And UT, despite a concerted effort to pound the ball inside, was unable to capitalize other than Roberts. Tayler Dobrinske added 12 points for the Panthers, and Katie Daggett grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
Shiltz knows his team can't dwell on the disappointing loss, having to play again in less than 25 hours.
"The players have to forget about it," he said. "As coaches, we probably don't, but anytime you play in a Christmas tournament and you lose, there's always going to be a quick turnaround. Hopefully, we have a great effort (this morning)."