Oregon’s 48-45 loss in basketball to Byron on Tuesday was disappointing for a number of reasons.
The Hawks hadn’t beaten Byron in four years and with almost all of the Tiger state-championship players gone, the time was right to get back on the winning ways.
With both teams around .500, regional seedings implications came into play. Only a few miles from each other, this is a definite rivalry game.
And, it was in front of the home crowd at the Blackhawk Center.
“Oregon used to be our nemesis,” Byron coach Eric Yerly said. “It’s always been a good rivalry. Credit to them for coming out and putting us into to hole to start out.”
With five different players scoring in the first quarter, Oregon (9-10) jumped out to a 17-12 first quarter lead, only turning the ball over once in that time span.
“We came out and hustled and move the ball around,” Oregon coach Kristy Eckardt said. “I can’t fault our effort.”
What did in the Hawks were too many turnovers. They had seven in the second quarter, nine in the third, and six in the final period, failing to score a point in the final four minutes.
“It was the inverse of how we played in the first quarter,” Eckardt said. “We tightened up so much. We should have had more confidence.”
A major factor in the turnover parade was Byron ratcheting up its defense. Facing an aggressive half-court trap, Oregon had problems getting the ball into the post.
“Defense is our calling card,” Yerly said. “We locked it down on defense when we needed to.”
That need was at its greatest after Addie Kitzmiller drained a 3-pointer for a 45-43 Hawk lead with four minutes left in the game.
Though Byron would go on to miss 10 of 15 free throws, they completely throttled the Oregon offense.
Trailing 46-45, the Hawks had possession of the ball with 30 seconds left, but turned it over on a bad pass.
Moments later, another quick turnover kept Oregon from getting a potential winning shot off.
“With them missing all those free throws, we had our chances,” Eckardt said.
The loss offset a tremendous effort by Bailey Montavon, who was the closest thing Oregon had to a turnover neutralizer.
Time after time, Montavon would bail out her team with a basket, rebound or assist. She led everyone with 21 points.
“We wanted to get her the ball,” Eckardt said. “Pretty much anytime she touched it, something good happened.”
Emmi Keller gave Byron its first lead, 20-19, with 3:56 left in the second quarter. From that point on, neither team was ahead by more than five points.
In the third quarter, Byron only made one of its first 13 shots, but still managed to take a 39-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
Anytime Oregon appeared to take control, a lost ball would keep Byron in the game.
Tamya Vaultonburg paced Byron with 14 points, followed by Kendra Jackson and Keller with nine each.
Jessica Hunt had eight and Kitzmiller a pair of 3-pointers to back up the 21 by Montavon.