Starr’s Mill senior forward Emily Nieuwstraten has seen a lot of classic moments in the Battle of the Bubble series against McIntosh. On Friday, she got to write her own storybook ending by hitting the game-winning 3-pointer to give the Lady Panthers a 52-49 win over the Lady Chiefs.
“It was incredible as I was coming off a slow start and didn’t really score much in the game,” Nieuwstraten said. “Doing that really sealed the deal for us.”
Starr’s Mill head coach Emily Sweeney was also extremely proud of the team’s execution on the last play. She praised sophomore guard Alice Anne Hudson, who made the extra pass to Nieuwstraten in the corner.
“It was very exciting and you hope in a situation like that someone can knock down a big shot,” Sweeney said. “Luckily for us, it was a senior that hit the shot.”
The shot capped off a back-and-forth battle. The Panthers were the aggressors early and started the game with a barrage from behind the arc. They jumped out to an early 11-5 lead before turning to Hudson to shoulder the load.
Hudson led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Chiefs. She was a dominant on both ends of the court and made life difficult for the McIntosh guards. The Chiefs couldn’t stop her dribble penetration as she set up easy shots for her teammates.
Freshman center Ali Rumpel benefited from Hudson engineering pick-and-roll sets and scored 11 points in the paint. She utilized her height advantage to alter any scoring opportunities at the rim, helping hold the Chiefs scoreless for over four minutes in the second quarter as Starr’s Mill took a 27-22 lead over McIntosh into halftime.
The Chiefs fought back in the second half. They went on a 7-3 run to open the third quarter and found themselves within two points of the lead. McIntosh point guard Kennedy Miller led the way with six points in the frame and forced Starr’s Mill to call a timeout with 4:09 left in the quarter.
After the timeout, McIntosh freshman forward Claire Lewis gave the team its first lead of the game with a huge 3-pointer to make it 32-30. Starr’s Mill responded with Hudson adding another clutch shot to make it 33-32 going into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, the teams traded baskets with McIntosh taking a late 45-44 lead behind five points from senior guard Kimmy Edgeworth. The Chiefs tried to hang on late, but it wasn’t enough as Hudson took a charge and found Nieuwstraten on the final play.
Starr’s Mill moved to 14-5 on the season and swept the Battle of the Bubble series against McIntosh. The Chiefs fell to 5-11 and suffered their fifth loss in Class AAAAA Region 3 play.
On Saturday, Starr’s Mill continued their winning ways with a 58-39 victory over Whitewater.
Rumpel led all scorers with 18 points and showcased her array of post moves by getting easy buckets at the rim.
“They looked for me a lot and I really appreciated that as we have really good players on our team,” Rumpel said.
The Panthers got balanced scoring from their backcourt duo of Hudson and sophomore Ashtyn Lally. Both guards added 9 points and paced the team with several clutch baskets down the stretch.
Despite the final score, the game was far from an easy victory. Whitewater juniors Courtney Smith and Jada Claude kept the Wildcats in the game with a combined 27 points, but they couldn’t put together enough clutch baskets to pull out the victory.
Late in the third quarter, Claude shrank the lead down to within one point, but Starr’s Mill rallied with an 7-3 run to end the frame with a 34-27 lead.
They cruised to their 15th win in the fourth quarter and added another region victory to their ledger. It was a big win for Sweeney, and she hopes the team can keep it going into the region playoffs.
“Our goal is to make a run for state and make it there,” Sweeney said. “Now we are changing our focus a little bit as they can do big things and I want them to know that.”
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