Seniors Paige Schultz and Anna Murray embraced at center court as head coach Hannah Clark talked about their leadership and the attitude they bring to work hard and unite their team in daily practices. The girls' smiles beamed, with Paige's parents by her side, a clear testimony to the girls' enjoyment in the game of Basketball. The warm engagement at center court was recreated after the final buzzer as the two led their team to a strong victory on Senior Night.
"Anna Murray and Paige Schultz are our two seniors and they played like veteran leaders tonight," Coach Clark noted in reflecting on the Comets fighting back from a 9 point deficit. With three minutes left in the game, Rothsay looked to have momentum and was poised to shut the Comets out. But Hillcrest dug in, playing shut down defense behind Schultz's leadership as the floor manager.
Schultz forced Rothsay to redirect the start of nearly every possession, causing the Tigers' point guard to pick up her dribble early and disrupt the offense. Schultz was able to take away 5 possessions from the Tigers by herself, adding in 5 assists and 6 points in her stat column.
From Schultz's work on the perimeter, the Comet defense simply denied entry passes. The underclassmen followed suit with Schultz, running away with over 19 steals on the evening. The key beneficiary was Olivia Foss, who picked the pockets of the Tigers 8 times while providing 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Comets.
Foss's cousin, Mackenzie Foss, was Schultz's counterpart, denying entry passes and taking the defensive point when the Tigers alternated ball handlers or when Schultz was getting a breather. Mackenzie had 4 steals on the night, adding a decisive 8 points in lifting Hillcrest over Rothsay.
The disruption in the passing lanes by Hillcrest's perimeter forced Rothsay to take a number of errant shots. Senior Anna Murray readily boxed-out defenders throughout the evening, pulling in key rebounds in the waning minutes that helped Hillcrest secure the victory. Murray grabbed 6 boards herself, contributing 11 points and 2 blocks from the post.
With Murray boxing out, teammates snuck in to grab rebounds. Junior Anna Rasmussen was an opportunistic player throughout the night, grabbing 9 rebounds and stealing the ball twice, as she hit one free-throw in quality supporting minutes for Hillcrest.
"The girls played great team defense the entire night," Coach Clark said after recounting the stat line for the Comets. "Anna Rasmussen played probably her best game of the season. Her defense was solid and she led our team in rebounding. Paige Schultz was our floor general tonight. Not only was she able to score, but she also got other involved. Her, Olivia, and Mackenzie came up with some big steals at the end of the game that really helped shift the momentum our way. "
Coach closed her comments with special honorable mentions of Cassandra Twedt and Audra Ewan, important assets on the Comet bench that allow Hillcrest's starters to keep their legs fresh on the short bench for the Comets.
Fans stormed the court to form a receiving tunnel for the Lady Comets after their 38-34 win.
The Lady Comets play Ortonville on President's Day at 5pm at Hillcrest.