It was a tale of two halves for Oregon in a 55-36 loss to Rockford Lutheran in the finals of the Oregon Tip-Off Tournament.
The Lady Hawks led 20-19 at half and stretched that to 22-19 on its first possession of the third quarter on an assist from Bree Tourtillott to Devyn Absher for the basket.
That well-executed play even brought coach Kristy Eckardt and her staff to their feet cheering. However, that’s exactly the point that Lutheran took over, outscoring Oregon 36-14 the rest of the way.
“We played extremely hard and composed during the first half to have the lead going into the 3rd quarter, but then in the same way we did against Prophetstown earlier in the day, we got sloppy with the ball on offense and stopped moving and talking on defense,” Eckardt said. “And once we got behind, we started forcing things more offensively and taking more chances on defense.”
There was also the matter of Lutheran senior point guard Rachel Konieczki stepping up her play.
Konieczki, a Bowling Green recruit, started the Lady Crusader second-half rally with a length-of-the-court lay-up that wasn’t challenged. After being held to two points in the first half, Konieczki had 13 in the second half.
“In the first half, Rachel tries to get everyone involved,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said. “In the second half, she knows when to take over for us.”
Konieczki also got a big hand from Abby Woolacott. The 6-foot-1 freshman had eight straight points, all under the basket, in the third quarter to give Lutheran a 33-24 lead.
“This is the first varsity experience for her and she’s gotten better from the first game in the tournament to the fourth one,” Carlson said. “She’s so huge for us. Her and Rachel have great chemistry.”
In the first half, though, it was the Lady Hawks showing the best display of teamwork. With Eckardt running 10 players in and out of the lineup, Oregon looked impressive in moving the ball around and working the press.
“Our first half was outstanding,” Eckardt said. “To know that we can put together such an amazing half gives us a lot of hope for the rest of the season and being able to sustain that for a whole game.”
Playing without Sam Lambrigtsen, who is out for an infraction of school policies, it was Emy Wright leading the Lady Hawks. Wright had 13 points, including a long-range 3-pointer in the first quarter and a seven straight points to close out the second quarter.
The most impressive basket of the game for Oregon was by Madeline Sanders, who made a 360-degree scoop lay-up midway through the fourth quarter to keep Oregon within 43-31.
“We had a lot of girls playing their hearts out but we just couldn't stop a couple runs Lutheran made and that was kind of the difference in the end,” Eckardt said.
Earlier in the day, Oregon had to survive a late rally by Prophetstown to advance to the title game.
Prophetstown outscored Oregon 19-6 in the fourth quarter, but lost 47-46.
“Oregon has a nice team. Missed free throws hurt us,” Prophetstown coach Don Robinson said.
In pool play, the Lady Hawks struggled. It took a strong fourth quarter to put Polo away and overtime was needed to beat Amboy. McKaylee Beeter had 17 points against Amboy to key the win.
“I think our performance was great overall,” Eckardt said. “We had some jittery moments, especially in the first game, but we saw a ton of positives in defense, leadership, and confidence, especially in late game situations like in our Amboy and Prophetstown games.”
Beeter and Wright were named to the all-tournament team.
“It's always hard to play so many games in a row with no practice time at the beginning of the season, but we learned a lot about our team. The team showed a lot of heart and determinatio, and finishing second place at our tournament is a big step in the right direction,” Eckardt said.