She scored inside and out.
Kelsey Cotton, the La-Grange Academy eighth grade phenom, did her part. She carried her team on her back. She rebounded. She hit three-point shots, and she led the Lady Warriors every way that she knew how.
But LaGrange Academy still bowed to Notre Dame Academy, 41-33 on Tuesday night in one more defining moment in Region 1-AA girls basketball. The Lady Warriors were never out of the game until the final horn.
“We had our chances, and we lost our focus (at times). We’re just young. We were not cutting their dribble off. It is frustrating,” said LaGrange Academy head girls basketball coach Mel Major.
Even with all of that, along with Cotton’s 16 points, the Lady Warriors made Notre Dame Academy work for every bucket. After all, the LaGrange Academy girls did hold the Lady Irish to just 41 points.
The Lady Warriors played their share of suffocating defense with Cotton, junior forward Ruthie Kelsey, 5foot-10 sophomore center Ashlee Mains and junior Felicity Liechty.
“We were fighting for third place (in the region). We started real good, and we played hard. If you pressure the other team they are going to mess up,” said Mains.
LaGrange Academy got some instant offense in the first period as it snatched a lead of 9-6 behind a Cotton three-pointer and then her layup in the final 1:16 of the opening quarter.
The Lady Warriors were in the thick of the region skirmish in the second period, too. LaGrange Academy took a 12-10 lead on a Cotton three-pointer with 4:48 left in the first half. Kelsey also hit a go-ahead bucket for the Lady Warriors two possessions later.
But Notre Dame Academy still capped off the first half with a 16-14 lead after getting two straight field goals from freshman forward Jordan DeNardo. The Lady Warriors would tie the game at 18-18 on a Liechty basket with 6:48 remaining in the third stanza.
Liechty scored again on a 12-foot jumper at the 4:22 mark of the third period. Notre Dame Academy had a 22-20 lead. The Lady Warriors stayed close throughout the third quarter as Cotton buried a three-pointer.
LaGrange Academy would go on another run in the fourth period behind an Ivy Portis layup, a Cotton threepointer, a Ruthie Kelsey layup and a putback from sophomore guard Megan Allen. The Lady Warriors got as close as five points in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame Academy iced the game with some free throws in the final 34 seconds of the game.
“We changed our defense, and we had a good shot selection. We used our subs (substitutes) well, and we got control of the game,” said coach Megan Thayer of the Lady Irish (12-3 overall, 8-1 in the region).
The LaGrange Academy girls are now 9-5 overall and 4-4 in the region. Besides Cotton’s 16 points the Lady Warriors also got six points from Kelsey and four points from Liechty.
Notre Dame Academy from Duluth had some sharpshooters, too, with nine points from sophomore Josie Fleck, eight points from DeNardo and seven points from eighth grade guard Riley Fleck.