TROY — Russia and Cincinnati Country Day’s defenses proved effective in different ways throughout a Division IV district final on Saturday at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center.
But both squads missed plenty of open looks, as neither shot better than 36 percent from the floor.
It came down to who was able to make shots in the fourth quarter — and the Nighthawks were able to.
Russia had a costly five-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter and had its season come to an end with a 47-42 loss.
Country Day (19-5) advances to face Fort Loramie in a regional semifinal on Thursday night at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
The squads were tied 37-37 with just over three minutes left when Country Day junior guard Gracie Barns made a jumper from the left baseline to give the squad a two-point lead.
The basket started a 10-2 run for the Nighthawks. Russia went about five minutes without making a field goal in the fourth quarter; its only points during the 10-2 run came from the free-throw line.
Reece Goubeaux made a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to break the drought for Russia and cut a 47-39 gap down to the final five-point deficit.
“We just didn’t shoot it well,” Russia coach Paul Bremigan said. “We missed five or six shots under the basket when we had the lead early, and I think that would have made a difference. When you have a chance to extend the lead and in a game like that, it’s big. An eight-point lead in a game like that is pretty big.
“We didn’t get a chance to do that. Their pressure hurt us.”
Russia’s defense was effective at preventing Country Day from scoring on many drives, thanks in part to junior forward Kate Sherman (6-foot-2), senior forward Ella Hoehne (6-0) and senior guard Sophie Francis (5-11) shutting down the post.
The Raiders also had a 40-22 rebounding edge and helped limit Country Day’s second-chance looks.
But the Nighthawks’ full-court press was tough for Russia to deal with throughout the day. Country Day finished with 15 steals, and the Raiders had about 25 total turnovers.
“It gave us a lot of problems,” Bremigan said. “They were pretty physical with us in traps and things like that. There was a lot of times we got knocked down because we just weren’t strong enough. They were stronger than we were in traps.”
After Country Day took a 39-37 lead, the squad started holding the ball and forced Russia to foul. The Knighthawks hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final three minutes to secure the win.
“They forced us to foul, and at the same time, we missed some shots I think we can make,” Bremigan said of the 10-2 run. “Sometimes, it just comes down to making shots. This is as poorly as we’ve shot the ball in the last month. I felt like we’d been shooting it good, but it happens.
“And when it happens, you’ve got to play better defense and take care of the ball. We played good defense, but we just didn’t take care of the ball like I’d hoped.”
Country Day scored the last nine points of the first quarter to take a 17-13 lead over Russia. The Raiders scored the last six points of the second quarter to take a 23-21 halftime lead, with Hoehne capping off the run with a basket with 10 seconds left.
The Nighthawks scored five straight points to take a 33-31 lead late in the third, but Cece Borchers made a put-back at the buzzer to tie it 33-33 heading into the fourth. The squads played to a 37-37 tie before Country Day’s decisive run.
Hoehne led Russia with 12 points. Borchers scored 10 and Goubeaux scored seven.
Russia finishes 20-6 overall. The Raiders will lose three seniors to graduation: Hoehne, Francis and Riley Hammonds.
“They played great all year,” Bremigan said of the seniors. “All these girls played great all year. They’ve played their hearts out all the time. …And we play a pretty tough schedule. Our schedule is second to none.”
Sarah Zimmerman led Country Day with 13 points. Barns scored 10 and Sam Easter scored nine.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.