In case you haven't noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven't, Lady Trojan basketball is getting better.
The Lady Trojans, who lost to Gallia Academy by double-digits at Gallia, nearly avenged the early-season setback before falling 54-51 at home to the Blue Angels in overtime on Wednesday in front of a sparse crowd.
As the clock ticked down, it appeared the Lady Trojans would be able get away with a win. Portsmouth's Taysha McGinnis scored on a drive and was fouled with 9.9 seconds remaining. After making the foul shot, the lead was at 46-44, but Gallia Academy's Sam Barnes made a jumper as time expired to set up an extra period. Gallia Academy outscored Portsmouth 8-5 in overtime.
"(Barnes) is only a freshman," Blue Angels coach Jeff Duduit said. "She does it in practice all the time. It's the first time in a game that she's stepped up and done it. She's been playing with a lot more confidence, the whole team has. I've just been so proud of them. Everyone says that we're young, but if they keep this intensity up they'll be fine come tournament time."
Ryann Leslie scored the first bucket of overtime for the Blue Angels and Gallia never trailed again, despite hitting just three of its final eight foul shots. The Blue Angels shot a dismal 31 percent from the foul line.
The Lady Trojans were just a tad better at 39 percent, missing 17 free throws.
"I'm proud of my girls," Portsmouth coach Jeff Nickel said. "We basically played five people all night. They were running in 12 people. I was very proud of our conditioning.
"The game basically came down to free throws," Nickel added. "If we knock them down, we win the game. We hit one, we win the game."
Though Portsmouth lost, Nickel said his team has shown improvement. Midway through the fourth quarter, Portsmouth trailed by five before going on a 9-0 run to get back in the lead. Something Nickel said the team couldn't have done earlier this season.
"I thought we did a better job of taking care of the ball and that's something that we weren't doing earlier in the year," Nickel said. "Our record doesn't really indicate what type of basketball we're playing. We've played several teams to single digits. It comes down to a matter of, do you hit your free throws, do you execute the plays that come down?
"Like at the end of the game," he added. "That is a game-winning play. If you rush her, she probably misses it, if you close out on her, maybe she doesn't even get the shot."
The Lady Trojans were led by Cassie Taylor's 19 points and McGinnis' 18 points. Both players were critical to Portsmouth's fourth-quarter run. Ashleigh Link scored six, Cailyn Rodriguez added five and Maggee Colley contributed three.
There was a scary moment for everyone in attendance with 1:55 to play in regulation. While going for a rebound, Gallia Academy's Hannah Cunningham fell to the ground with a neck injury and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.
"We always put her on the other team's best player," Duduit said of Cunningham. "All the kids on the floor said they heard a crack and then she hit the floor and said 'Coach I can't move my neck.' We had both her parents who are both doctors come down. They took her in the squad just as a precaution."
The Blue Angels were led by Leslie's 13 points and Lauren Kyler's 12 points, all of which came from beyond the arc.
Gallia Academy's next game is at home against Athens. Portsmouth hosts Warren on Saturday.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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