Varsity girls eliminated in district squeaker

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By Jenna McKenna

It was that close.

A rough start off the tip, any one of a dozen little things, and they might have had them.

Cedar Key varsity girls got a dream date in the district tournament - a matchup with three-seed Seven Rivers to try to avenge their recent one-point loss.

It was not to be. After getting down 19-6 in the first quarter, the Lady Sharks made an amazing comeback but just couldn't get over the hump, succumbing in the end by 34-29, after coming as close as 31-29.

Cold shooting in the first half, and a mad run by Seven Rivers made for a deep hole early. Alex Iwaniec and Carolyn Allen tag-teamed for the Warriors, paused only when Caely Hibbits and Kacey Miller went to the line for Cedar Key. Miller had the Sharks' lone free throw on the quarter.

Cedar Key stayed cold through the half, with only Miller scoring again before the break. They got their defense working, though, allowing only four Seven Rivers points on the second eight minutes. With at least the press to rely upon, the Sharks went to the locker room with something to build on.

With defense running solid, the Sharks had a monster second half. Miller could hardly miss, and Molly Gordon gave her lots of second chances under the basket, as well as a few putbacks of her own. Jade Watson joined Jenny Bierman and Deanna Littlefield on defense, and kept shutting down the Warriors, who again only scored four on the quarter, compared to a big 11 points for the Sharks. At 27-19 after three, Cedar Key was closing in.

The Sharks had another big quarter in the fourth, as Gordon continued to collect junk points underneath. Pressure defense was suffocating both ways, and Hibbits helped Littlefield bring the ball back from the Warriors' side.

Littlefield, such a defensive presence all year, turned out to be a shooter as well, as did Edmunds, as everyone worked to overcome the opening crash.

With a minute to go, Seven Rivers led by only two.

Iwaniec was unstoppable, however, and her free throw and final field goal put the game to bed for Seven Rivers.

"We missed too many shots early on," said Cedar Key head coach Chris Cowart.

"The girls played so hard, but we couldn't find our way out of the hole we dug in the first quarter."

As hard as it was to lose this game, Cowart could only smile at the rewards of this season and his hopes for the next.

"We're young, so the future looks bright," he said. "We'll just have to get in the gym and work hard this spring and summer."

"I feel so pleased and happy with how hard the girls have worked for me, through bumps and bruises, and through losing numbers. They always found a way to answer the bell, get up for games and give it everything they had."

"Last year, we won two games," Cowart said. "This year we won three. I had hoped to double the total, but in so many games, we were right there."

"We've had a successful season," Cowart added. "This was about more than just wins and losses."