In the final minute of Saturday’s matchup between the Bloomington South and Eastern Greene girls’ basketball teams, the Thunderbirds were surging. A Brynlee Perkins 3-pointer had cut Eastern Greene’s deficit to 42-36, then Keylee Hudson grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to reel the Panthers in just a bit more.
After a quick foul and a missed free throw on the Panthers’ end, Eastern Greene had the ball with a chance to make it a one-possession game. All the Thunderbirds had to do was get the ball in bounds.
Bloomington South, however, had other designs. The Panthers clamped down on their opponent, drawing a five-second call and regaining possession of the ball.
Though the Thunderbirds wouldn’t go away immediately after that, the turnover would ultimately help Bloomington South wrap up a 50-44 win.
“Defense is where we kind of have to hang our hats. We’re not an experienced offensive team as of yet, but defensively we’re able to keep ourselves in games,” Bloomington South coach Larry Winters said.
“A lot of people will look at the record and I understand that we’ve got 17 losses, but we’ve also played a Top 20 schedule. We haven’t played anyone that isn’t capable of beating anyone on our schedule so we’re pretty proud of the fact that we’re getting better at the right time.”
Caitlin Heim steps up for South in second half
Somehow, someway, the Panthers were able to go into the halftime break up 22-15 despite getting just four points from Caitlin Heim, who’s been on a run lately. The senior forward was coming off 18- and 14-point performances heading into the game against Eastern Greene, but was slow to start on Saturday.
When Bloomington South needed her though, she answered the call.
Eastern Greene made multiple pushes in the second half, managing to get right into the thick of things. Each time, the Panthers would stave off their foes, and Heim’s efforts were a big part of that. She racked up 10 points after halftime, surging to tie teammate Carlie Pedersen for the game high in scoring with 14 points.
“I think the shock came in the first half when she just wasn’t as aggressive as she needs to be. We haven’t played a game yet where she’s not been the best athlete on the floor and I’m talking about being a pure athlete,” Winters said.
“Today, I thought she played a little tentative early and we had to put Arissa in for her and get her motivated a little bit, but in the second half I think she started showing people what she’s capable of doing.”
Thunderbirds fight back with late scoring flurry
When Eastern Greene’s back was to the wall late in the game, it had no choice but to attack. In doing so, the Thunderbirds turned to Perkins for some huge shots and she delivered. The sophomore canned a trio of 3-pointers in the game’s closing period, each one giving Eastern Greene a bit of life despite time growing ever shorter.
It was no surprise to see her knock down some perimeter shots. Saturday’s game was her sixth this season with at least three 3-pointers made, but nevertheless it was a promising sight. She’s recently hit a snag, hitting just two of her last 17 attempts from downtown, but it appears that she may be back on track as the Thunderbirds approach the postseason.
“She’s been hitting shots in practice like crazy and we know that she’s a shooter. We know she can score, but she’s hit a little cold streak in games lately. My words to her have been to keep shooting,” Burton said.
“Luckily she didn’t let the missed shots early affect her because they were good shots and then she hit them late. I was happy to see the ball go in for her.”
The loss was a disappointing one for Class 2A Eastern Greene (16-5, 6-0 SWIAC) as it was the first the Thunderbirds had taken in their high school gym all season, even if it was against a 4A opponent.
Despite that, they’ve still got a shot at history coming up. If they beat Clay City on Thursday, they’ll tie their 2001-02 team for the most wins the program has seen in a single season since the beginning of the new millennium.
A win over the Eels would also secure them an outright conference championship. They already clinched a share of the crown, but they don’t want to share it with anybody, so they’re planning to be locked in for their regular-season finale.
“We’ve got a little bit of practice time here between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so we’ve got some time to work on things,” Burton said. “I know that we’ve got a share of (the SWIAC championship) right now and a 6-1 conference championship sounds god, but 7-0 sounds better so that’s our goal. Our focus is on Clay City.”
The win continued an upward trend for Bloomington South (5-17, 2-3 CI) as the Panthers have now won three of their past four games and four of their past seven. They’ll try to continue winning on Tuesday when they host Indianapolis HomeSchool, relying on the experience they gained early in the season to help them continue to roll here late.
“I think we’re playing teams that are comparable to us. The first 16 or 17 games we played everyone that was ranked in the top 15 or top 20. That’s a tough schedule for girls with no experience to play,” Winters said.
“Now as we get to the end of the season, these last four or five games have been teams that are similar to us as far as skill level. Their records might be better, but we’ve been able to compete because of the kind of schedule that we’ve played.”
Contact sports reporter Auston Matricardi via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @amatricardiTM.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Bloomington South girls' basketball hangs on to win at Eastern Greene