Dream season ends for Straughn

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, February 28, 2013

BIRMINGHAM — Seventh-ranked Holly Pond pulled away late in the fourth period and went on to beat ninth-ranked Straughn 38-30 in the Class 3A Girls State Semifinals, ending the Lady Tigers’ dream season.

SHS led 24-20 after the third period and turnovers early in the fourth gave the Lady Broncos the advantage, as their quick transition game kicked in with less than four minutes to go in the game.

HPHS went on to outscore Straughn 12-4 in the final 3:03 of the game.

“First of all, you’ve got to congratulate (Lady Broncos) coach (Scott) Adams and Holly Pond,” SHS coach Scott Kinsaul said. “They’re a class group. They played well and they deserved it.”

With this loss, Straughn ends its season with a 32-3 overall record. This 2013 team has recorded more wins than any other team in school history.

Kinsaul said this week’s experience will help the team, who will lose three seniors to graduation, in the long run.

“Experience is a lot,” Kinsaul said. “The last time Straughn was here in 1996, we hadn’t been to a regional since then. I started four sophomores. We’re going to lose three great seniors.

“When we get a chance to come back, we know exactly how to handle things,” he said. “We look forward to hopefully making it back.”

Holly Pond’s Meg Gambrill found Natasha Holcombe on a fast break for an easy layup to get the scoring going in the fourth period.

Leading 24-22, Straughn elected to hold the ball to allow the clock to drain with more than five minutes to go.

On HPHS’ next offensive possession, Holcombe was fouled, and made the back-end of a pair of free throws to cut the game to 24-23.

Straughn’s Katelyn Kinsaul missed a jumper on the other end, and the Lady Broncos took advantage as Gambrill waited at the top of the arc for a 3-pointer to give her team a 26-24 lead.

The Lady Tigers tied the game up at 26-26 when Brittany Driver found Paige Taylor down low for an easy bucket.

After a series of steals by the Lady Tigers with the help of guard Emily Wood, and another turnover, the Lady Broncos got the ball back and Gambrill got a jumper to start what eventually would be a 8-0 run.

On their offensive end, the Lady Tigers were swamped by double teams from HPHS, which forced turnovers.

Kinsaul said there were just a few mishaps in the game late.

“We just had some break downs and they got some opportunities late they took advantage of,” he said. “We just had a hard time getting to the right offense and that’s my fault. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, more or less, for what they did on their defense than what we did on offense.”

Late in the game, Katelyn still had some life and didn’t give up easily.

Despite trailing 38-26, Katelyn got a steal and made four consecutive free throws to end Straughn’s scoring for the game.

Katelyn said it’s been a privilege to play with this group of girls.

“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “I hope to come back next year.”

Holly Pond’s Rachel Finley started the third period with a 3-pointer to put the Lady Broncos up 19-16 with 6:18 on the clock.

Jacie Williamson answered with two jumpers and the Lady Tigers led 20-19 at the 5:21 mark. Driver was later fouled and made her two free throws and SHS led 22-19 with 3:07 left.

Straughn took a five-point 24-19 lead on another Williamson jumper with 2:14 left.

Holcombe then made a free throw late to cut the game to 24-20 after the third period.

Earlier in the second period, Driver started the Lady Tigers on a 4-0 and 12-5 lead with 6:23 left in the first half.

Holly Pond, who lives and dies by the 3-pointer, nailed a trey to start a 8-0 run. The Lady Broncos led 13-12 with 3:56 left in the second.

Katelyn drained a free throw to tie it up, and and Gambrill made a 3-pointer on Holly Pond’s offensive end to put her team ahead 16-13.

Katelyn then made a free throw and Driver got a bucket late in the waining seconds of the first half to tie the game 16-16 at the break

Driver scored her team’s first points in the opening period on a jumper with 7:17 on the clock.

Holcombe, who led HPHS with 12 points, answered with a trey and added another jumper with 5:12 to go as the Lady Broncos led 5-2 early.

Williamson and Katelyn made jumpers, and Driver made two free throws to put Straughn ahead 8-5 after the first period.

Driver led SHS with 12 points. Katelyn and Williamson chipped in eight points each. Taylor had two points.

In fact, SHS will lost only one starter in Driver to graduation. Additionally, the Lady Tigers also lose Mariah Bonham and Taylor Wood to graduation.

Kinsaul said in the end, he is proud of the girls.

“We had a great season,” he said. “They got 32 wins in a season. It’s more than a basketball team that Straughn’s ever had. It’s going to be hard to duplicate.

“I’m proud of my three seniors,” he said. “Brittany, Mariah and Taylor. We’re going to miss them. We’re going to miss their leadership and they put their stamp on this program.”

In spite of the loss, Driver said she’s thankful that she got to fulfill a life-long dream of playing at the BJCC.

“I had a great group of girls to play with on it and the coach, too,” Driver said. “We got to get past it and just worry about other things, and be thankful for what we have.

“I had a great time this year with a great group of girls,” she said. “It was worth it, every bit of it.”