Rosary's comeback falls short in regional semifinal

Despite allowing a 14-0 first-half run to Rockford Lutheran Wednesday night in the Class 2A Genoa-Kingston regional semifinals, Rosary clawed its way back into the game in the third quarter.

The Royals scored the first six points of the second half to pull within a point, and they had six possessions to go ahead.

Unfortunately for Rosary, it couldn't get a shot to drop on any of them, including four missed free throws. Rockford Lutheran never let go of the lead, then pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 49-41 victory.

The Crusaders (13-16), seeded second, will play Johnsburg Friday night for the regional title.

No. 7 Rosary ends the season at 15-16 despite holding the Crusaders scoreless for the first six minutes of the second half to trim a 23-16 halftime deficit to 23-22.

"I thought our defense was outstanding," Rosary first-year coach John Rutter said. "We got to the basket and drew some fouls and the ball just hung on the rim and fell out."

The Royals took their only leads of the game in the first quarter including the first four points on a Megan Cibulskis shot in the lane and Zoe Ketterman's jumper.

Ketterman scored inside late in the first quarter to go up 10-8, which turned out to be the Royals' final advantage. The Crusaders scored the next 14 points, and Ketterman, who had 6 points in the first quarter, did not score again while getting in foul trouble.

Senior Ella Havertape helped rally Rosary, hitting a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, then another with five minutes left in the game that drew the Royals within 38-33. Those were Rosary's only 3-pointers of the night.

"I had an off-game Monday night but I knew I had my team supporting me and they wanted me to keep shooting," Havertape said. "Having their confidence gave me confidence to take those shots."

Cibulskis also came up with several key plays. After Rockford Lutheran took its biggest lead of the game at 45-33 with 3:20 remaining, Cibulskis picked off two passes and took them in for layups.

"I really like this group of girls and I didn't want this to be our last game together," Cibulskis said. "It was a really good season and I didn't want it to end so I wanted to push to get us back into it."

Cibulskis also converted a conventional 3-point play to bring the Royals within 47-41 with 40 seconds left. Rockford Lutheran missed a 1-and-1, but the Royals couldn't get any closer as they turned the ball over, one of 23 in the game.

"I thought we played a little lackadaisical in the first half and throughout the game we got a little careless with the ball," Rutter said. "But proud of their efforts. It was a great group of kids, outstanding. Seniors have been first class all the way. Showed the young kids how it's supposed to be even maybe when you are not getting as much time as you'd like."

Sophomore point guard Mikayla Huffine sealed the win with four free throws. She paced the Crusaders with 13 points.

"They did a nice job guarding her tonight," Rockford Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said. "She's been our leader all year.

"We didn't handle the ball well at the end. Hats off to them, they never quit. I would have liked to close better."

Cibulskis finished with a game-high 15 points plus 7 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 2 steals. Havertape added 8 points and 6 boards, and freshman Macey DeMoss and Ketterman both scored 6.

"Out of my four years this was my favorite season," Havertape said. "I'm going to take a lot of good memories and lessons from it."

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