Lady Clippers fall short in Regional final
AMBOY - Despite its youth and limited varsity experience, Amboy managed to win 24 of its 28 regular-season games, earning it the top seed in the regional.
After the Lady Clippers churned out a hard-fought victory over Ashton-Franklin Center in the semifinal-round, they had a date with conference rival Polo - itself a narrow winner over Forreston in the semis - in the championship game of the Amboy Class 1A Girls’ Regional Basketball Tournament.
The teams split their two regular season games by close margins, and the third meeting did not disappoint. The Lady Clippers played like grizzled veterans, but their fourth-quarter comeback attempt just came up short as Polo pulled out a 49-43 victory on Feb. 17 at the AHS gym.
The loss ended Amboy’s outstanding season at 25-5, while the Marcos (18-11) earned the right to play on their home floor against Orangeville in the Polo Sectional. They were the second of two semifinal games on Tuesday night, with Galena going up against Pecatonica in the opener. The two winners will meet for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Amboy was slow out the gate, seeing Polo double up the score, 12-6, in the early going. But the Lady Clippers clawed their way back and scored the final seven points of the opening stanza to take a 13-12 lead after one. Sophomore Addison Pertell keyed the rally when she nailed a three-pointer and a conventional hoop to draw Amboy to within one. Then junior Elly Jones put up a three-point try at the buzzer that misfired, but she was fouled on the play and converted two of three free throws for a 13-12 Amboy lead.
The game remained close in the second period as Polo’s Lindee Poper connected on a shot at the horn to give her team a 25-20 halftime advantage.
Amboy’s goal was the keep Polo off the free throw line, but that didn’t happen. Courtney Ortgiesen was nailed with two quick fouls, and Maeve Larson and Tyrah Vaessen also picked up a pair of fouls apiece in the first half. Vaessen went back into the game and was hit with her third foul. Amboy ended the first half with a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen on the floor.
Jones opened up the third quarter with a three-pointer 39 seconds into the half to draw Amboy within two, but the Marcos tallied the next six points, including four of four free throws from Poper, to open up the biggest lead of the game by either team, 31-23. It wasn’t until the 3:38 mark of the quarter that the Lady Clippers scored again on another triple from Jones.
Polo built its lead back to eight (34-26) with under a minute to play in the quarter before Jones and Pertell sandwiched three-pointers around a Poper rebound basket to make it 36-32 heading to the final frame.
Amboy got to within three points on two occasions over the first two minutes of the quarter, but a two by Poper and triple by Sydnei Rahn stretched the margin to eight again (45-37) with 3:32 left.
Amboy scored the only points over the next two minutes and 40 seconds on a Jones free throw, a nice basket by Pertell off an inbounds pass and another trifecta by Jones with 52 seconds left to make it 45-43. But that proved to be the final points for the Lady Clippers as Polo connected on four of six free throws to hold on for the win.
Jones led all scorers with 25 points while Pertell finished with 12. Amboy held Polo’s three leading scorers to 12, seven and three points, but Rahn, their fourth leading scorer, exploded for 24 points, while Poper chipped in with 12 tallies.
Jones added seven rebounds and two steals for the Lady Clippers, while Pertell had a season-high eight boards and dished out three assists. Also, Vaessen grabbed five rebounds and had four assists, Kiera Karlson scored a basket and snared two rebounds, Ortgiesen had a free throw and five caroms, and Larson picked off three rebounds and swiped two steals.
Amboy had a tussle with Ashton-Franklin Center in the semifinals before earning a 50-42 win on Feb. 14.
The Lady Clippers were up 10-8 after the opening stanza, but AFC managed to forge ahead, 20-18, at intermission. The contest was tied at 31-31 heading to the fourth frame, where Amboy erupted for 19 points to capture the game and move on to the finals.
Pertell pumped in 12 of her 18 points in the second half, while Jones tallied eight of her 10 points in the fourth period. Jones sank seven of eight free throws in the late third and fourth quarters. Jones also connected on a huge three-pointer in the final frame.
Jones added five rebounds and four assists in the contest, while Larson drilled 10 points and yanked down 11 boards. Vaessen had her usual great stat line with four points, four rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Ortgiesen dropped in a basket and two crucial free throws late in the game, and she collected four rebounds and a pair of steals, while Karlson had four markers and three caroms.