NEW MARKET -— A three-game win streak and a spot in the sectional championship game was not to be for Crawfordsville’s girls basketball team as they lost to Lebanon 66-53 in the semifinals of the 3A Sectional 25 tournament.
Playing their best of the season, the Athenians led midway through the second quarter and were down only 28-25 at the half, but the Tigers made some offensive and defensive changes at intermission to pull away from Crawfordsville and advance to the championship game Monday.
“We played our best basketball of the season the last three games,” Athenians coach Tony Bean said, noting a regular-season ending win at Frankfort and a first-round tourney win over Southmont. “We battled every possession. Lebanon just used their size advantage in the second half.”
The Tigers, who owned a 25-point win over the Athenians in Sagamore Conference action, found themselves down for most of the first two quarters.
“Coach Bean has developed the confidence of his players,” Tigers coach Nic Carothers said. “This was not the same team we played back in December. You could see how they play for their teammates. They never gave up — we had to take the game from them tonight.”
But take it away the Tigers did, as they move to 13-10 on the season while Crawfordsville ends theirs at 4-20.
Offensively, they attacked the inside, using a height and size advantage. A handful of first-half buckets were from close in. All but two 3-pointers in the second were within reach of the rim.
Defensively, they parked those same bigs in the lane, which took away the pick and roll that had given Crawfordsville first-half scoring and momentum.
“They (Lebanon) are big and strong inside,” Bean said. “Those big girls are good. In the third quarter, a couple of missed shots led to points, and we had to play from behind.”
Crawfordsville got it to 28-27 with the first bucket of the third quarter, but the Tigers went on a 10-1 run that gave them the cushion they enjoyed for the rest of the game.
Ashlyn Terrill was the demon in the middle, as the sophomore finished with 10 points and a co-team best seven rebounds. She also had two blocks. Lebanon finished with 15 second-chance points.
Crawfordsville had many step up.
Leading the way was Lauren Kellerman, who had a game-best 23 points.
“Lauren is just a great talent,” Bean said of the Athenians leading scorer all season at 14.2. “She was being trapped everywhere when we were on offense. She beat the trap and then got bumped and banged around. She is simply a gutsy player who battled every minute tonight.”
Kellerman also finished with nine rebounds, and added a pair of assists.
Addie Laskowski finished her high school hoops career with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. She had three assists, three steals and a blocked shot to go with it.
Shea Williamson had six points, seven boards, five steals and two assists.
“Shea has made such big strides,” Bean said of the freshman. “She has been something to watch from the start of the season to the finish.”
Another spot on the stat sheet was what was missing.
“We averaged 30 turnovers a game,” Bean said. “Tonight we had 15. Cutting that number literally in half is what led to our success late in the season.”
Crawfordsville was 19-of-59 from the field, and 3-of-14 from long range. They finished 12-of-21 from the line.
The Tigers were 26-of-67 from the field, 2-of-9 from deep and 12-of-23 from the line. They won the rebound battle 52-47. Abigail Wirey also had seven boards. Gabrielle Brewer was also in double-figures with 12 points.
The loss ends the basketball careers of three Crawfordsville seniors, as Laskowski, Olivia Barnett and Tori Tesmer suited up for the last time. Barnett, who had 13 points Friday against South, had two points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“I’m just super-proud of our three seniors,” Bean said. “They gave us everything every day. They played their hearts out and brought such a positive attitude to the team. Addie and Olivia were starters and Tori was just super at practice and in the locker room. We will miss them so much.”
The Tigers will take on Benton Central in the sectional championship game at Southmont on Monday night after BC defeated North Montgomery.