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LIGONIER — Goshen girls basketball coach Shaun Hill kept it pretty brief following Tuesday night’s game against West Noble.
“Ugly game,” the third-year head coach said.
After a first half that featured 14 combined points between the two teams, Goshen outscored the Chargers, 23-13, in the second half to prevail, 30-20, in Ligonier.
The first points of the game didn’t come until there was 1:47 left in the first quarter. Goshen junior Brynn Shoup-Hill made 1-of-2 free throws to break the scoreless tie. Less than a minute later, RedHawk junior Megan Gallagher would tally the first made field goal of the game. Two free throws from West Noble Lily Mast made it a 3-2 game after the first eight minutes of play.
Neither offense performed well in the second quarter as well, as the Chargers outscored Goshen, 5-4, to tie the game at seven heading into the locker room. There were three total made field goals between the two teams in the first half of the game.
“Both teams played really, really good defense,” West Noble coach Dale Marano said. “It just was, and there was some beauty to what we watched. … I thought, in the first half, we had the better opportunities; we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
While West Noble continued to struggle on offense to start the third quarter, Goshen found some life. With the RedHawks up 12-11 midway through the period, Goshen rattled off a 6-0 run in a two-minute span to increase their lead to seven. Sophomore Tori Eldridge made back-to-back shots, and Shoup-Hill sank two free throws to give Goshen its largest lead of the game at that time.
Goshen would take a 19-12 lead into the fourth, where they would get two quick buckets to extend the lead to 11. The Chargers wouldn’t go away, though, cutting the deficit to six, 23-17, with 3:09 to go. Facing a full-court pressure, Goshen called timeout.
“I’m telling them and reminding them that we need to attack,” Hill said was the message to his team in the huddle. “We’re not a ‘hold the ball’ team — we can’t be a ‘hold the ball’ team. So, I’m just telling them to keep going towards the basket.”
Following the timeout, Shoup-Hill took over. The highly-recruited forward used her size to score seven-straight points for the RedHawks. She hit consecutive layups, followed by a 3-point play with 44.7 seconds left in the game. This gave Shoup-Hill a game-high 15 points and a 13-point margin for Goshen.
“I think I should’ve asserted myself a lot earlier, but especially at the end of the game, I thought, ‘This is where we need to pull away,’” Shoup-Hill said. “Give us a little stress relief at the end.”
“Her teammates got her in a position for her to get that and-1,” Hill added. “Her teammates get fired up when she gets fired up, and when her emotions get high, our emotions get high. So, I keep on reminding her that her voice carries a lot of weight, so be loud.”
Prior to the last 3:09, Shoup-Hill had only one made field goal and was 5-of-8 from the free-throw line. After airballing a 3-point attempt in the first quarter, the West Noble student section chanted “Airball!” every time she touched the ball.
While Hill believes the crowd affected her daughter, Shoup-Hill disagrees.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,” Shoup-Hill said. “I just wasn’t all the way focused I think.”
Mast had 11 points to lead the Chargers (4-5), nine of which came from the free-throw line. Her only made field goal came with three seconds left in the game. Nichelle Phares had four points, Jazmyn Smith and Taytlynn Forrer two each and Tori Franklin one.
“We’re young. We’re going to continue to learn,” Marano said. “I can’t fault the effort. I thought they were tremendous. … We told them after the game to just keep working hard and good things are going to happen. We just need to get over that hump, and when things start clicking, offensively, for us, that’s when it’s going to happen.”
After dropping a tough Northern Lakes Conference game to Plymouth this past Saturday, Goshen (9-2) was able to rebound and get a tough road victory. Along with Shoup-Hill’s 15 points, the RedHawks had six points from Gallagher, four from Eldridge, three from Regan Mast and two from Elizabeth Kirkton.
“In my head, we could’ve easily come out here and lost this game,” Hill said. “A team like (West Noble), that 1-2-2 defense they run, it made me nervous. I didn’t know how we’d handle that pressure. We struggled in the beginning, but luckily we do play defense and then figured it out as the game went on.”
Goshen hosts Wawasee in an NLC contest Friday. West Noble visits Whitko next Tuesday, Dec. 17.