ELDRIDGE — No matter what happens in other parts of the game, basketball simply boils down to what team can put the ball in the basket.
That is something the North Scott girls basketball team could not do in its Class 4A regional final against Fairfield on Tuesday night at The Pit. The Lancers shot just 23 percent from the field for the game and particularly struggled in the second and third quarters of an eventual 55-44 defeat to the Trojans.
The Lancers, the defending Class 4A state champions, end the season with an overall record of 20-3. Fairfield (19-4) advances to next week's state tournament in Des Moines.
The home team started off just fine, hitting five of seven 3-point attempts in the first quarter to get out to a 20-13 lead by the end of the quarter. But it was downhill from there. The Lancers went 1-for-7 on 3-point attempts in the second quarter and 0-for-5 in the third quarter. The Lancers combined to shoot 2-for-27 in the second and third quarters.
Not surprisingly, that is when the Trojans took over. Fairfield had it tied by halftime at 25-25 and led 38-29 by the end of the third quarter.
It was not anything special Fairfield was doing on defense and North Scott did not hurt itself with turnovers. The Lancers had just seven turnovers through the first three quarters of the game. The ball simply would not drop on any looks.
"It came down to just not shooting the ball real well, credit Fairfield," North Scott T.J. Case said. "I didn't get into all the statistics but it just wasn't our night."
Despite this, the Lancers were within striking distance early in the fourth quarter. Adriane Latham's blocked shot ignited a North Scott fast break that ended with a Brooke Corson 3-pointer to cut Fairfield's lead to 38-34 with 5 minutes, 42 seconds remaining. Corson came up huge again a minute later with another 3 to shave the lead to 38-37.
But the Trojans' Shaylin Drish hit two free throws and then Ashtyn Drish nailed a back-breaking 3-pointer to push the lead back to 43-37 with 3:42 left.
The Lancers proceeded to commit two turnovers and miss their next five field-goal attempts trying to rally. It was part of a 1-for-9 effort from the field in the game's last 3 minutes. The Trojans were able to ice the game at the foul line down the stretch.
Fairfield coach Brian Witzenburg said his team simply caught the Lancers on an off night. Although the Trojans did help themselves by out-rebounding North Scott (30-27) and limiting the Lancers to just two second-chance points.
"Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good," Witzenburg said. "North Scott, they are great shooters and, tonight, we just had them out of their rhythm."
Rylie Rucker led the Lancers with 13 points, while Grace Boffeli had 10 points and 10 boards.
Fairfield's Nicole Buch finished with a game-high 18 points and was 4-for-4 from the foul line in the last minutes of the contest to help seal the win. Buch used her quickness and driving ability to free herself up for shots as she went 6-for-8 from the floor, including two 3-pointers with defenders right in her face.
Shaylin Drish contributed 15 points for the visitors and Kara Jeffrey grabbed nine rebounds including seven defensive boards to further limit North Scott's opportunities.
As for the Lancers, Case said he is still proud of a season that saw his team capture a conference championship.
"These girls have no quit in them and they accomplished a lot this year, (Mississippi Athletic Conference) championship and winning 20 games and winning some special things," he said. "It does not boil down to one game and they understand that. We had a great ride. These are some great girls that come from great families and we'll be back."