Lady T-Birds fall in sub-state finale

Lionel Tipton

TOWANDA – For Saturday’s Class 4A sub-state final, Circle coach Brian Henry said he was determined not to have a repeat of Andale’s 47-30 regular-season victory.

To achieve this, he emphasized a stifling defense in his game plan.

And, to a degree, it was successful. 

However, the Thunderbirds struggled on offense just enough for the Indians to hold on for a 20-17 victory and secure the state-tournament berth.

“We knew coming into the game that the first time we played them, they pretty much manhandled us and did it with transition and with their physical play,” Henry said. “And so, we had a game plan that we were going to work to put in to hopefully slow them down alittle bit, to allow us to get back on defense and to challenge their size.

“And, to our girls’ credit, they did exactly what we laid out for them. We sagged off their bigs, and hopefully we wanted them to take a few more outside shots, and they were disciplined, and they didn’t do that.”

It was a fitting end to the sub-state between two of the top teams in 4A. Eighth-ranked Circle (14-5) found itself playing catch-up the entire game except when senior Ashley Gilmartin’s two free throws with 5:20 left in the game gave Circle a 17-16 lead for all of 32 seconds. But that would be all the T-Birds could muster, and senior Lanna Chase’s three-point attempt just before the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“We had opportunities. We had a good look at the buzzer to tie it,” Henry said. “And I would take that every time. If you would have asked me if I would trade having that look at the end of the game to tie it versus how we played last time, I’d say ‘Yeah, we’ll take that every time.’”

A loss always hurts, Henry said, but he remained satisfied that Circle approached the game as it should have.

“We executed,” Henry said. “We go from a time where we give up 47, and we held them to 20 points. This is a team that’s ranked in the top eight in the state and is going to be continuing moving on, in my opinion. (Saturday) we gave them everything we had. (It) was just a night that we could not find the bottom of the net.”

Seventh-ranked Andale’s largest lead was a mere six points, 8-2, with 2:04 left in the first quarter. Circle cut its deficit to one point twice in the fourth quarter and kept getting chances in the final minute when Andale (17-5) missed the front end of one-and-onesthree times. 

In fact, Circle got nine of its point total from the free-throw line. It only had one two-point field goal and two three-pointers, and it went scoreless in the third quarter.

“We shot about 15 percent overall, and you’re not going to win too many games doing that,” Henry said. “We got a little stagnant. We stood around. We didn’t make hard cuts like we needed to. Our girls, they work so hard, and we don’t have a deep bench, and a lot of our girls just got exhausted.

“Unfortunately, when you get exhausted, it makes it harder to run your offense as smoothly, especially when they’re playing as aggressive as they did.  

Circle’s defense forced Andale into 12 turnovers, but the Thunderbirds had turnover problems as well, committing 16 – six in the third quarter.

“We had a few more turnovers than we needed to have,” Henry said. “We worked on our press-break drop this week. We knew they were going to press us. I felt like we forced too many passes and kind of played timid throughout it.

“So, we would have liked to have had that over a little bit.”

Looking back on the season, Henry said he enjoyed this team.

“This is a tremendous group,” he said. “I just love each and every one of these girls so much, and they just put in so much time and effort and energy. I’m just so proud of them, of bouncing back howwe did against both McPherson and Andale here at the end of the season. Two teams that pretty much took care of us early in the season, and we just challenged our girls to play like they’re capable of.

“We showed that we’re a much-improved team. We just fell a little short (Saturday).”

Andale will open the 4A tournament at home Tuesday against Clearwater (15-6), which won its sub-state over Wellington on a buzzer-beater, 34-32.

Andale 20, Circle 17

Andale 10;3;3;4 – 20

Circle 5;6;0;6 – 17

ANDALE – K. Fairchild 2 2-6 6, M. Fairchild 2 0-2 4, Wegerer 0(1) 0-0 3, Eck 1 1-3 3, Schrandt 1 0-0 2, Baalman 1 0-0 2. Totals 7(1) 3-8 20.

CIRCLE – Cook 1(1) 1-2 6, Chase 0(1) 2-3 5, Gilmartin 0 2-2 2, Claycamp 0 2-2 2, Johnson 0 2-2 2. Totals 1(2) 9-11 17.