[This is my column in the Feb. 12 issue of The Commercial Review.]
There are many words that come to mind when looking back at the first quarter of the Jay County High School girls basketball game on Tuesday.
It was bad.
Wait, no. It was ugly.
But most of all, it was unfortunate.
As the time ticked by in the opening quarter against Huntington North, shot after shot by the Patriots bounced off the rim. They missed the first eight shots they took, including four alone on the first possession.
The basketball seemed to do everything but go through the basket.
It was mind blowing to see a team that went 18-5 through the regular season nearly get shut out in the opening quarter of the sectional tournament.
On the other end of the court, the Patriots’ zone defense wasn’t very effective either. Huntington North was driving to the hoop, drawing multiple defenders and then kicking it outside to a teammate for a wide-open three.
It appeared as if the game was going to get out of hand in a hurry.
It was tough to watch.
When asked if the first quarter was frustrating, Catherine Dunn didn’t waste any time giving her answer. And she replied the way anyone would expect a senior captain to respond.
“A little bit, but it’s the way of the game,” she said. “It happens. You just get over it and keep going.”
So the Patriots slowly clawed their way back.
A 16-point second quarter shifted momentum in the favor of the Patriots, who trailed 23-21 at halftime. And despite finding themselves in a deeper hole early in the third quarter, the Patriots never gave up.
They shot 7-of-17 from the field in the final two quarters, and made six of their last seven free throws despite missing their first five attempts from the line in the final period.
Jay County found a way to win.
That’s been coach Chris Krieg’s mantra all season.
“Find a way to win.”
Jay County did during its Allen County Athletic Conference tournament run, when it opened with a poor performance — but a victory — against Southern Wells and then turned around and struggled to beat Bluffton in the semifinal.
It was more of the same story in the championship game against Leo. Fall behind early, scratch and fight back in the middle quarters, get a lead and then hang on for the win.
Dunn recognized that was the way many games have gone this season for Jay County, which has lost in the opening game of the sectional tournament in each of the last six seasons.
“We’ve definitely done that all season,” Dunn said of her team not giving up. “We’ve had some tough games and some tough times. We just keep going at it, and it definitely showed (Tuesday).”
The win against Huntington North was a true testament to the character of this squad.
Down, but not out.
Almost like the saying, “Get knocked down seven times, stand up eight.”
In the first quarter, the Patriots got knocked down.
It may have taken two quarters for them to stand back up, but they did.
And it resulted in Jay County playing in the sectional semifinal for the fourth time in the last eight seasons.
Standing across the court on Friday will be the Fort Wayne South Side Archers.
Jay County defeated South Side 42-36 on Nov. 25, the first win against the Archers in six years.
Can lightning strike twice? Perhaps. Can the Patriots stun the Archers one more time and play for a sectional championship for the first time since 2007?
Krieg knows precisely the game plan of South Side coach Juanita Goodwell.
“They are quick and athletic,” he said. “They are going to play one style; they are going to press you and they are going to run and gun.”
Jay County has handled South Side once, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the squad from Fort Wayne will be seeking revenge.
The season is on the line.
Win and live to play at least one more game.
Lose and it’s going to be a difficult bus ride home, for either team.
Jay County is more than capable of beating the Archers again.
All it has to do is find a way to win.