Samantha Lambrigtsen was not about to look back in anger after Oregon's 77-71 loss to Boylan on Saturday afternoon. That being said, she and her fellow Hawks couldn't help but wonder, "What if?"
What if they hadn't allowed 26 points in the first period? Would they have been the ones playing Aquin for the Dixon tournament title?
Instead, Oregon (13-4) settled for a 58-47 victory over Rochelle (11-2) in the evening's third-place game.
The bronze is the second-best honor in the program's history at the tourney to the silver it took in 2007.
"If it wouldn't have been for the first quarter, it would've been a whole different ballgame, I think," said Lambrigtsen, who tied with Boylan's Jensen Blassage for a game-high 27 points. She added 22 more points in the victory over Rochelle.
"If we could take the first quarter back, who knows?" said sophomore Emylyn Wright, who added 18 points. "But we knew we just had to keep fighting for it and keep our composure."
Lambrigtsen was forced to watch the last few minutes of the first with two fouls. She re-entered in the second, her team down 26-14, and took on the form of a bull in a china shop.
The junior point guard scored 11 points in the frame, nine of them at the free-throw line. She finished 18-for-21. The Titans (7-7) shot 31-for-35 as a team. More on that in a few.
Lambrigtsen keyed an 8-0 burst to open the frame with two throws, then skipped a pass from the left angle to the right, where Wright swished a 3. Three minutes later, Lambrigtsen completed a personal 7-0 run with a step-back 17-footer that made it 30-29 Titans.
But after Devyn Absher hit a free throw to even it at 30, Boylan scored three points in the final 30 seconds, similar to when Elizabeth Hilby hit a 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first.
Two minutes into the third, Absher scored off a slick feed from Wright to give Oregon a 38-37 lead, its first since Absher hit an 8-footer for a 5-4 advantage 2 minutes into the game. Boylan built a 52-47 lead on a Blassage bucket with 7 seconds left in the third and appeared to win the tail end of another period before Lambrigtsen took the inbounds pass and sprinted to the other end.
She lifted off just inside the top of the key, sending Blassage flying with a blocking foul and dropping a one-handed runner through the net as soft as church music. Her free throw hit just about every part of the rim before falling and making it 52-50.
Lambrigtsen, held scoreless up to that point by the box-and-1 Boylan coach Paul Perrone put on, hoped the three-point play would pave the way to victory.
"I saw the clock and went for it. I don't know how it went in, but it did," Lambrigtsen said. "Everybody was pumped up after that, and it feels good to pump up your team."
It didn't translate. At least, not at first.
Boylan built a 67-58 lead with 3:02 left. Then Beeter, after visibly thinking about it twice, banged home a 3. Bree Tourtillott tied up the ball on the other end to earn a possession on the jumpball, and Wright buried a 3 off a Lambrigtsen assist.
Two possessions later, Lambrigtsen coolly swished a step-back 3 along the left wing to tie it at 69.
"They just fight every second, and our girls showed a ton of heart to fight like that the whole game,"
Oregon coach Kristy Eckardt said. "We felt we had a chance once those 3-pointers started go in. "We felt like we could get it, but they didn't miss any free throws the whole game."
About that. After Lambrigtsen hit the step-back over Allie Zimmerman, the Boylan sophomore hit two freebies on the other end. After an Oregon turnover, Lambrigtsen fouled out. Wright followed suit, and Boylan just kept hitting freebies.
"We can shoot free throws well, but we can't shoot from the floor," Perrone said. "Seriously."
"Having Sam and Emy go out at the end was tough," Eckardt said. "It might've been a different outcome."
What-ifs aside, Lambrigtsen was just pumped to be in the winner's bracket for the first time in the event, not to mention giving a 4A powerhouse fits.
"Everybody feels good about this, I think, even though we lost," Lambrigtsen said. "We've got fight, and I think this game really proved that we can go far."