The Lady Tigers just can't escape the Panthers.
The Davenport Division Champion Oliver Ames girls' basketball team fell to the Kelley-Rex Champion Franklin Panthers Thursday in the Hockomock Crossover game, 61-56, at the Franklin Field House.
OA (16-2) only has two losses on the year, both of which have been to 17-1 Franklin.
"We’re used to getting out ahead with big leads and not having to scrap and claw so we have to pay more attention to that," OA Coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook said. "Thankfully, we have two more games to get in that mindset."
The Tigers did get out to an early lead, but it wasn't nearly as big as they're used to. Thanks in part to a strong transition game and 10 points from forward Caitlyn Abela, OA led after the first period 14-11.
The Panthers came roaring back in the second period, though. Strong defense and a focus on OA's two leading scorers were key, Franklin coach John Leighton said.
"We really made a point to get back [on defense]," he said. "Candace [Steadman] is so fast. If you give her a chance she’s going to score layups and Abela is a great shooter. We tried to adjust to those as much to those kids."
Franklin's stifling defense helped account for 13 OA turnovers at halftime and 26 in the game.
"I think because they took that away we got into our half-court offense and we became more tentative because Franklin does a really good job getting in the passing lanes and they don’t make it easy for you," Clement-Holbrook said. "They did the same thing in terms of the press break."
The Panthers were led by junior forward Alicia Kutil, who finished the game with 19 points. Senior guard Catie Phelan added 13 points. Juniors Kaitlin Copponi and Kristi Kirshe added 8 points each.
For the Tigers, Abela and Steadman led the way. Steadman ended the night with 17 points while Abela added 13. Lexi Gold finished the game with eight points.
Despite trailing by 13, 48-35, heading into the final period, Clement-Holbrook was proud of the way her team ended the game. OA outscored Franklin, 21-13, in the final period.
The test against Franklin in a playoff-like environment will be vital as OA moves towards the MIAA tournament.
"They really dug in at the end and they didn’t lay down," Clament-Holbrook said. "I thought that was important for them in terms of fighting until the end."