OTTAWA – Aurora Christian's second straight and second-ever girls basketball regional championship blocked Seneca from its 24th on Thursday in a 53-49 decision at the Class 2A Marquette Regional.
Seneca post Anna Baker, who had 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, fouled out with 5:11 to go and the game tied at 38. Just over two minutes later, the Eagles had built a 44-40 lead, with four points from Gabby Galbato doing the bulk of the damage.
As it had done all night, Seneca answered. The teams traded baskets before a long Mallory Misener jumper and a conventional three-point play from Danielle Hauch elevated the Irish to a 47-46 lead with 1:28 left.
"It was probably one of the hardest things ever, especially knowing it was my last game," Baker said of fouling out. "I knew they [her teammates] had it in them [to battle back]. They just had to work hard, and I just had to cheer 'em on as much as I could and I couldn't get down."
It was a lead that would last just 12 seconds of game time. Charissa Robinson made a 3 at the 1:16 mark to put Aurora Christian back ahead, and it stayed there. Seneca's next possession ended with a turnover, and an Alyssa Andersen free throw padded the Lady Eagles' lead on the other end.
With about 20 seconds left, Hauch made a basket that cut the deficit to one, but Kirsten Madsen responded with two Aurora Christian free throws, and when the Lady Irish missed a 3-pointer and a putback attempt on the other end, a Madsen rebound effectively sealed the outcome.
Seneca went 22 for 65 from the field and was 3 of 5 from the free-throw line as its opponent attempted 25 free throws, making 14.
"I'm extremely proud of them," Seneca coach Barb Beck said. "I think we rushed a few things, but we had some looks. I hate to say officiating, but  free throws to five, that's a little crazy."
Aurora Christian's four-point margin of victory was its largest lead at the end of any quarter, though it led at the end of each. It had an early 13-7 lead cut down to 17-15 by the end of the first, was ahead 29-26 at halftime and nursed a 37-36 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Hauch led Seneca, which bows out at 23-6 overall, with 16 points, and Jacey Lamboley scored 11 while adding four rebounds and three assists.