FRONTENAC — Raiders head coach Jeremy Rakes summed up the game in one word -- “sloppy.”
Unforced turnovers by the Frontenac girls' basketball team slowed their offensive output against the visiting Independence Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs took advantage to run away with a 56-35 victory. A close game was broken open late in the second quarter when Kara McGrath hit three-pointers on three successive trips down the court for Independence. Emily Merando led the Raiders with 12 points, and Lauren Hipfl added 10.
Frontenac came out aggressive against the visiting Independence Bulldogs, Friday night. Running the offense through Hipfl early, the Raiders were able to jump out to a quick 5-0 lead. The lead would not last long, however, as the Independence full-court pressure defense forced four consecutive turnovers, which translated into an 8-0 Bulldog run. The remainder of the first quarter was tight, and the Raiders found themselves down two, 16-14, heading into the second.
Independence is known as a three-point shooting team, and they did not disappoint in this game. Guard Kara McGrath was able to drain three consecutive shots from behind the arc to stake the Bulldogs to a commanding 36-19 lead with just under two minutes to go until halftime. Frontenac was not helping their own cause by committing unforced turnovers on offense, allowing a 16-2 run by Independence. At halftime, the Raiders found themselves down 39-23.
Coach Rakes tried every defensive tactic he could think of to try and slow Independence down, but to no avail.
“We were throwing everything we could [to slow Independence down]," he said. "We tried the half-court; we tried the full-court. But our transition defense, we couldn’t get back, and then they were shooting threes. We were in a position where do you give up layups, or do you give up threes? We have to get better moving forward, and I know we will be.”
The frustration translated to Independence extending their lead on the strength of a 12-0 run in the quarter. Emily Merando and Brilee Rheums both hit threes in the quarter to try and keep Frontenac in the game, but after three, Frontenac was down 53-32.
The fourth quarter found Independence calling off the dogs offensively but Frontenac could not take advantage. The Raiders would score only three points in the quarter, thanks largely in part to turnovers limiting their opportunities. The Bulldogs would win comfortably, 56-35.
Merando paced the Raiders with 12 points, and Hipfl added 10. Gwen Smalley had four steals and six rebounds to lead Frontenac in both categories.
Raider boys rally late, come up short
Independence did a good job of keeping the Raiders on their heels defensively, and they would end up pulling out a 68-61 victory, Friday night in Frontenac.
Down 14-2 early, the Raiders would make a habit of cutting into large Bulldog leads all night, but could never come all the way back. The bench of Frontenac shouldered much of the offensive load on the night, with Isaac Bicknell pouring in 18 points, and Ryan Long scoring 13. It just wasn’t enough to take.
The first quarter saw the Independence Bulldogs come out on fire shooting, jumping out to a 14-2 run before Frontenac seemed to know what hit them. As hot as the Bulldogs were, the Raiders found themselves unable to buy a basket, missing several from within the lane. Offense came in the form of Ryan Long, for Frontenac, who scored five points immediately upon entering the game midway through the quarter. The Raiders would cut the lead to 14-7, but Independence scored at the buzzer to go into the second with a 9-point lead.
Bicknell checked into the game for Frontenac in the second quarter, and he was on fire immediately. Back-to-back threes by Bicknell cut the Independence lead to just three, 18-15, two minutes into the quarter. The Bulldogs would come right back with a run of their own to extend their lead back to 12 points, 35-23, with a minute to go until halftime. A Carlos Hererra layup at the buzzer sent the Raiders into the locker room down 10 points.
Terry Young made an athletic move to steal an inbound pass early in the third quarter, and Herrera would score on the subsequent possession to get Frontenac off to a quick start in the second half. A three by Colin Coronado would cut the Bulldog lead down to five, 37-32, with 5:30 to go in the quarter. But, a 9-1 run by Independence once again gave the visitors breathing room. They would score again right at the buzzer to send the game into the final quarter with the Raiders trailing 48-35.
Frontenac was clearly frustrated early in the fourth quarter and would find themselves down 54-37 with just under six minutes to go. The Raiders were getting beat on the boards, giving up numerous second chances to Independence, and they were getting beat to lose balls. A timeout by Frontenac coach Doug Barto, seemed to refocus the Raiders, who would go on a run of their own to once again cut into a large deficit.
Coach Barto started to foul with just under three minutes to go to lengthen the game, and his Raiders would go on a 16-7 run over the span of four minutes to trim the Independence lead to just 64-58 with only 46 seconds to go in the game. But, just like the rest of the game, Frontenac just could not make the comeback complete. Young hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to make the final score 68-61 Bulldogs.
Bicknell led Frontenac with 18 points off the bench. Long added 13 points and Hererra had 10.
After the game, Coach Barto was looking ahead to next week, putting this hard-fought game behind him.
“Next week, we have two sub-state opponents: Girard and Baxter Springs,” he said. “They will be tough, tough ball games. We will take the weekend off and prepare for Girard.”