KNIGHTSTOWN — When one of your two best players is struggling offensively, finding a rhythm can become a struggle. When your other best player gets in foul trouble, the problems become compounded.
Both of those two occurred for Shenandoah early in the Henry County Tournament Championship against Tri, as Erikka Hill sat out the entire second quarter after picking up two fouls in the first.
“That hurts. We can’t do everything we want to do with Erikka on the bench,” Shenandoah coach Dameon Wyatt said. “She knew that coming in, that she couldn’t get in early foul trouble, and she did, which really put us in a hole to fight out of. We almost did, but we didn’t.”
Kathryn Perry, Shenandoah’s leading scorer at 22.5 points per game, had four points at halftime and didn’t get going until the second half. The result was a 16-point deficit after three quarters.
Despite the rough start, Shenandoah battled all the way back and had a look at a go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute to go. A three from the wing went long, and Tri’s Bayleigh Appleby made a pair of clutch free throws to cap her 15-point night and seal Tri’s 52-48 win over Class 2A No. 3 Shenandoah.
The loss was the first of the year for the Raiders (14-1), and the Titans’ win made it five straight for the underdogs as they improved to 11-5.
“The early foul trouble was something we had definitely gone over. I guess I blatantly ignored it,” Hill said. “It’s just that sometimes, I get over-vigorous to go get the ball. I need to be smart. When is it a good time and when is it a bad time?”
Shenandoah’s defense had trouble stopping Tri’s two post threats, Bailey Parham and Averi Phelps, for the first three quarters. Time and time again, the Titans found the duo on the block for fairly good looks at the rim. Parham scored a team-high 18 points, and Phelps added 11.
Hill and Perry led a Herculean effort from the Raiders in the fourth quarter, and it almost led them all the way back to steal a win.
Under a minute into the fourth, Perry had singlehandedly cut Tri’s lead to 11 with five straight points thanks to a steal and coast-to-coast layup followed by a corner 3-pointer.
“I think Kathryn came alive a little bit in the fourth quarter, and we rode that momentum,” Shenandoah coach Dameon Wyatt said. “We’ve got to have people step up and make some shots and we didn’t have that tonight. Kat and Erikka had 42 of our 48 (points), and we’ve got to have more scoring. We’ve got to have more balance than that.”
Hill was involved in the next two buckets with a layup for two of her game-high 25 points to complement an unofficial tally of 14 rebounds. She then found Ally Wissler for a layup.
“(In the fourth), we realized we had nothing to lose,” Hill said. “Our mindset changed from strictly defensive-based to, we have to attack. There was really no other option. And I’ll give kudos to Tri. They played well tonight. Overall, as a whole, they wanted it more, which, I’ll be honest, sucked.”
Less than three minutes later, a coast-to-coast layup from Hill brought the Raiders within single digits for the first time in the second half. The lead kept shrinking as Hill grabbed consecutive steals, splitting a pair at the line after the first steal and getting an easy layup after the second to pull the Raiders within three with two minutes to go.
Hill was the Raiders’ only source of offense in the first quarter, scoring all nine of Shenanqdoah’s points and grabbing five rebounds in the first eight minutes.
No one other than Hill scored a point for the Raiders until the three-minute mark of the second quarter when Perry got her first bucket near the rim with an assist from Jenna Stewart. Perry averaged 22.5 points per game entering Saturday, so holding her scoreless for the first 13 minutes was a win for Tri. She finished with 17 points.
“A game like this was a big reality check for us,” Hill said. “It sucks that we lost the county, but this was a good kind of setting for a championship game in a sectional, and that’s something we needed. It put a lot of pressure on me and Kathryn, and it forced our other players to make decisions, which is good.”
Next up for Shenandoah, the Raiders will host Centerville on Tuesday.