DEWITT — The Hampton Hawks girls basketball team needed to go through the No. 1-rated team in Class D2 Friday night in order to get to next week’s state tournament in Lincoln. After 32 minutes of basketball, though, the purple-and-gold ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard, falling 61-41 to the Falls City Sacred Heart (FCSH) Irish 85 miles away from home in the D2-1 district final at Tri County Public Schools outside of DeWitt.
With the loss, Hampton’s season comes to an end with a 20-5 record due to having not enough power points to advance to Lincoln.
FCSH has four players listed at six-feet or taller while Hampton’s tallest contributor, junior forward Madison VanHousen, stands 5-foot-11. The Irish wanted to get the ball inside and be physical with the smaller Hawks, but things didn’t work out that way at the start of the game — Hampton held its own.
“It was their height against our lack of height,” Hampton coach Margo LaBrie said after the game. “We’re jumpers. They are just tall, physical and they can shoot the ball.”
The Hawks found great post defense in the first eight minutes of play from both seniors Tayma Sebek and Haley Schulze. On the first play of the game, Sebek batted down an entry pass after battling with an Irish player in the lane, and Schulze picked up the steal. That steal led to Hampton’s first points of the game coming from the hands of senior guard Tristin Mason, who is the Hawks’ leading scorer with 12.8 points per game this season, on the Hawks’ very first possession.
After FCSH hit a triple, the Hawks responded with one, too, from junior sharp-shooter Jaime Troester, which gave LaBrie’s squad an early 5-3 lead four minutes into the game. Coming into Friday’s contest, Troester led the team with 45 made triples on the year.
The Hawks went on to grab a 10-5 lead on the top team in D1 thanks to a 5-0 run that included a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast layup from Mason, a post bucket from Sebek and a free-throw make from junior Tayler Klassen.
But the Irish wound up stopping most of that momentum, and cut their deficit to 10-9 after ending the first quarter on a 4-0 run.
The basketball gods weren’t kind to Hampton in the second half, which ultimately proved to be the defining quarter in the game. FCSH outscored the Hawks 18-3 and went on an 8-0 run to give it a 17-10 lead with 4:35 left before half. The Irish started to utilize their size down low with multiple offensive rebounds.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever played such a physical game,” LaBrie said. “And we stayed with them for a quarter. We got a lot of offensive bards in that first quarter. But then they definitely shut that down. They got a lot of second-chance opportunities and we had zero second-chance opportunities.”
Shulze stopped the bleeding momentarily when she set her feet behind the arc and drained a triple to cut her team’s deficit to 17-13, but the Irish ended the first half on a 10-0 run and led 27-13 at the half.
Hampton’s offense found much more success at the start of the third quarter, but the FCSH offense never slowed down, either -- making life tough for the players in purple and gold.
The Irish rattled off 18 third-quarter points and only allowed 12 from Hampton. Both Mason and Troester again nailed 3-pointers, but the Irish got to the free-throw line eight times and made four of them. The Hawks, on the other hand, didn’t as many calls, and were only awarded two, both for Mason. When the clock ran out in the third quarter, the Irish lead had ballooned to 45-25.
In need of a fourth-quarter rally, Hampton recorded 16 points in the final stanza, its highest total of the four quarters, but FCSH kept the lid on any sort of come-from-behind run, hitting on 9-of-12 free throws down the stretch to keep its distance.
Offensively for the Hawks, Mason led with 14 points while Troester added nine. VanHousen scored six while both Schulze and Klassen had five. Sebek chipped in with two.
The loss was the last game in a Hawks’ jersey for two seniors on the team: Tayma Sebek and Haley Schulze.
“I can’t say enough about those two girls,” LaBrie said of Sebek and Schulze. “They’re not only great leaders, they’re great people, great friends — they’re like the moms of the team. They hold us together.
“I love them to death,” LaBrie added. “Just all-around great kids. Not only are they great athletes, too, they are great in the classroom. We’re going to totally miss them next year.”
Hampton (20-5) ..................... 10 3 12 16- 41
FCSH (24-1) ........................... 9 18 18 16- 61