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Hancock girls eliminated by Parkers Prairie

The Hancock Owls girls basketball team fell behind in the first half of their Section 6A playoff game against Parkers Prairie and fell 43-42 on March 9.

The No. 3-seed Owls outscored the top-seeded Panthers 27-21 in the second half.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the opening minutes," said coach Jodi Holleman, whose team fell behind 8-0 in the opening minutes.

The Owls bounced back and took a 12-11 lead with 5:02 remaining in the first half, but the Panthers countered with an 11-3 run to end the first half and gained the momentum.

"We had trouble hanging on to a couple rebounds in the first half, which resulted in some second chance opportunities for Parkers," Holleman said.

"In the second half, the girls came out on a mission, increased the defensive pressure, and continued to push the ball inside to Kendra Schmidgall with success," she said.

The Lady Owls tied the score at 39-39 with 4:06 remaining on a bucket by Schmidgall, but the Panthers answered with a 3-point shot. Schmidgall scored in the paint again and Bree Holleman hhit one of two free throws to tie the game at 42 with 1:46 remaining in regulation.

"At this point, we felt like we were in an excellent position to win this game," Holleman said. "We went into motion -- which we run to perfection -- and planned on running a quick hit play with 9 seconds remaining on the clock. The wheels fell off the wagon when the Panthers went for a steal and the Owls had a 5 on 4 opportunity to score which resulted in numerous scrambles for the ball and several fouls.

The ball was ruled out of bounds off Illissa Koehl with eight seconds remaining in the game and the ball was awarded to the Panthers.

Parkers Prairies' Micaela Noga took the inbounds pass and was off to the races. She attempted a shot which appeared to be blocked, a foul was called. Noga hit one of two foul shots for the win.

"It was very unfortunate that our season came to an end like that," Holleman said. "The girls battled hard the entire night and did everything that I asked them to do. We had a very intense practice the night before, which involved watching a lot of game film, brushing up on the fundamentals, and mentally preparing for this game."

The game was a defensive battle for both teams. Hancock pressed the Panthers the entire night to slow them down and extended its 3-2 zone to get out on all of the Panthers' 3-point shooters. Parkers came into this game averaging 74 points per game and the Owls held the Panthers to 30 points below their average.

"We held their top three scorers to 12 points each, which includes holding standout Sari Noga to two buckets on the night," Holleman said. "We also knew that it was critical that we keep Parkers off the boards. We did out-rebound the Panthers 22-18 on the night."

"I was really proud of all of the girls for stepping up their game while Bree Holleman was suffering a partially separated shoulder the past three weeks," Jodi Holleman said. "Bree took on the role of a distributor, floor leader, and defender while her teammates responded with a balanced scoring attack and played with a ton of heart."

The Owls have to say goodbye to seniors Lindsie Cunningham, Bree Holleman, and Kaylee Voorhees.

"The amount of dedication and determination shown by these three girls is very impressive," Holleman said. "They are excellent role models both on and off the court. It won't be the same walking into the gym next year and not seeing their smiling faces."

"No words can explain how proud I am of the Lady Owls," she said. "These girls are all excellent athletes, outstanding students, and classy individuals. This loss is going to hurt for a very long time, but nobody can take away all the special memories and success that we had throughout the season," Holleman added. The Owls finished the season 22-4 and won another Pheasant Conference title.