After playing perhaps their best basketball of the season in the first half Friday night while leading Sturgeon 31-17, the Pilot Grove Lady Tigers basketball team may have also played its worst basketball in the final two periods.
Luckily for the Lady Tigers, they still had overtime to right the ship. But in overtime, Pilot Grove couldn’t buy a basket from the foul line by missing on all three attempts in a 54-53 loss.
While the loss dropped Pilot Grove to 12-9 on the season, head coach Landon Daniel said this one is on him as a coach.
“We had a great start to the game and was really giving Sturgeon a lot of trouble with our defense designed to make some of their role players put some shots up,” Daniel said. “Anytime you can limit a CAC girls team to three points in one quarter, things are going well. But I didn’t have the girls ready like I should have in the third quarter and we played too passive on both ends of the floor and they put up a big third quarter on us. I also did not have the girls execute very well to end the game when we could have held the ball for the last possession. The girls played their guts out and I’m very proud of their efforts and I really feel like we are just continuing to get better with every game. I’ll do a better job from and learn from this game and make sure that everyone, including me, is ready for our next close game like this one.”
If Daniel didn’t feel like his team was ready to play in the second half, he had to be more than ecstatic in the first half. While implementing a new offense earlier the week, the Lady Tigers showed great ball movement which in turn led to high percentage shots and a 16-14 lead after one.
While hitting 5 of 12 shots from the field in the opening period, Pilot Grove also forced Sturgeon into five turnovers.
Of course if you thought the Lady Tigers couldn’t play any better all you had to do was stick around for the second quarter.
While scoring the final 11 points of the period, Pilot Grove also enjoyed its biggest lead of the ballgame by leading Sturgeon at the break 31-17.
Senior Reagan Walker and Emily Schupp also had the hot hand early in the ballgame with nine and eight points, respectively, in the first half.
Unfortunately for Pilot Grove, they were unable to close the deal in the second half as Sturgeon rallied back in the third quarter with a 18-9 advantage to cut the lead to five at 40-35.
The Lady Bulldogs also went on two different runs in the third by scoring seven straight during a two minute stretch to cut the lead to six at 35-29 with 4:00 left and six in a row to closeout the quarter to cut the lead to five at 40-35.
Of course if you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sturgeon also scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to grab a 42-40 lead with 6:00 left.
That’s when Schupp and Walker took over by scoring the team’s next-five points to give Pilot Grove back the lead at 45-42 with 4:41 remaining.
From then on Pilot Grove and Sturgeon played to two ties at 46-46 and 48-all. The Lady Tigers even took a one-point lead at 49-48 after junior Chloe Schlotzhauer hit 1 of 2 foul shots to make it 49-48. Meanwhile, after Sturgeon tied the game again at the foul line, Pilot Grove missed a shot at point blank range on its next possession.
The Lady Bulldogs also had their chances. With the ball and 12.5 seconds left, Sturgeon came up short on two shot attempts in the final seconds.
In overtime, Pilot Grove took the early lead on a basket by senior Kaitlen Weekley to make it 51-49.  The Lady Tigers also led 53-51 after a basket by Schupp with 1:33 left. However after missing on three straight attempts from the foul line, Pilot Grove saw Sturgeon storm back with a three by junior Camyron Orf to put Sturgeon on top 54-53.
Pilot Grove still had a chance with 14.9 seconds left and took two good shots in the final four seconds only to have the ball bounce off the rim.
Emma Bright led three players in double figures for Sturgeon with 15 points. Jahna Burris chipped in 13 while Laura Mills added 12.
For Pilot Grove, who dropped to 2-6 in the CAC, Schupp finished the game with 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Weekley also had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds along with two assists and one steal. Walker tallied 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists while Chloe Schlotzhauer added eight points, two rebounds and one assist, Abby Schupp five points, three steals, one rebound and one assist, Reagan McFatrich five points and one rebound and Natalie Rentel with one rebound.
The Lady Tigers also finished the game shooting 31 percent from the field and 58 percent from the foul line.