NEW PARIS —The National Trail’s girls’ basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 44-42 defeat against Bethel on Thursday, Jan. 21.
The Blazers led the majority of the way, using home court to their advantage, but the visiting Bees refused to go away, making two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to secure the victory.
National Trail led 9-5 after the first quarter and entered the halftime break with a 21-16 lead. The teams played even in the third quarter as the Blazers led the majority of the game.
The visitors mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter, tying the game up late in the contest.
All this set up for the heroics of Bethel’s Kayla Grable who calmly sank two free throws with under five seconds left in the game to give Bethel the win.
National Trail advanced the ball past half court before calling a timeout to set up the last shot. The Blazers got a good look but it wasn’t meant to be as the ball hit the backboard and bounced off the rim.
Savanna Abner scored 13 points and JaLynn Byrd scored 11 and recorded five rebounds. Payten Laird also chipped in six points and five rebounds.
Bethel shot 34 free throws in the game and the Blazers gave up 13 second chance points.
“We played well again defensively and were more efficient offensively,” National Trail Head coach Troy Ferguson said afterward. “It just came down to a couple of possessions where we don’t move our feet on defense and foul, or we force a shot or turn the ball over.”
“We have to finish possessions — our defensive effort was good until the first shot, and then not finishing a possession with the rebound was our demise,” Ferguson added.
On Saturday, Jan. 23, the Blazers traveled to Covington and lost for the sixth straight time since senior Miranda Mize went down with injury.
Covington jumped out to an early lead, going up 14-8 after the first quarter. By halftime the lead was doubled at 28-14.
The visiting Blazers trimmed the lead down to 11 heading into the final frame, but Covington scored 20 points in the final quarter to earn a 56-33 victory.
Laird scored 15 points and led with seven rebounds. Byrd scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds and Bri Dillow had five points and two assist.
Ferguson said once again the Blazers allowed too many second chances. “I felt we played really well defensively in spurts, but a few possession where we don’t finish with grabbing a rebound and it cost us,” he said. “You can’t give a team as good as Covington its second and third chances.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the team fell to Monroe in a non-league match-up, 35-27.
Once again the Blazers’ defense came to play but the team only shot 25 percent from the floor and managed only two points in the second quarter.
The teams were tight after the first quarter with Monroe leading 6-5, but the Blazers could only score two points in the second quarter and by half the visitors were up eight points.
The Blazers only had 14 points entering the final frame, as Monroe led 26-14 before closing the game out in the fourth quarter.
Abner led with nine points and senior Katie Stan scored six points.
The Blazers are now 5-13 overall and 3-7 in the Cross County Conference. The team hosts Preble Shawnee on Monday, Jan. 25, before hosting Miami East on Thursday, Jan. 28 for seniors Miranda Mize and Katie Stan’s final home game. The Blazers then travel to Dayton Christian on Saturday, Jan. 30.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.