The Hillsboro Lady Dragons eighth grade girls basketball team defeated Kincaid South Fork 31-29 on Thursday night, Dec. 5, to win the regional tournament at Pana.
Hillsboro (16-2) will play Roxana (20-3) at Vandalia Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 6:30 p.m. to determine the sectional champion. The winner will play in the IESA State Tournament at Germantown Hills Middle School Saturday, Dec. 14, at 1 p.m.
The Lady Dragons, coached by Kenny White, used a torrid second half to defeat South Fork. After trailing 13-5 at the half, Hillsboro used a 17-9 third quarter advantage to tie the game at 22-22.
Two Kinley Richardson three-pointers started the rally and Sophia Blankenship chipped in with a layup on a steal and a three-point basket. Richardson had eight points in the quarter, followed by Blankenship with five, Addison Lowe with two and Aubrey Evans with two.
In the final quarter, the teams were tied at 24-24, 26-26 and 28-28, before South Fork made a single free throw with two minutes left to take a 29-28 lead. Hillsboro scoring was by Evans, Blankenship and McKenzie Raymond.
Addison Lowe provided the Lady Dragons with the game winner, hitting a two-point basket at the 1:23 mark. Fouled on the shot, Lowe swished the free throw and Hillsboro took a 31-29 lead.
Hillsboro used a tight defense in the final 60 seconds to secure the win. The Dragons had made it to the regional championship via a 32-27 victory over fourth seeded Greenville on Dec. 3.
"Expectations for this group of girls had never been set real high. They had always been considered the underdogs and for whatever reason, seemed content," Coach White said after the game. "My goal was simple, get them to believe in themselves and their abilities and let's just see what could happen. Well this just happened. An overall season record of 16 wins with only two losses, a regional championship and the opportunity to play in the Sweet 16 for a trip to state. As a coach, I have been here a number of times before and each one always seems more and more special. This one will be extremely hard to beat because of this group of kids and what they have accomplish."
December 5 at Pana
IESA Pana Regional Championship
South Fork 4 9 9 7 29
Hillsboro 4 1 17 9 31
Hillsboro (31) - Kinley Richardson 8, Sophia Blankenship 12 Addison Lowe 5, Aubrey Evans 4, McKenzie Raymond 2.
South Fork (29) - Shoulders 9, Wake 8, Neal 4, Tarrant 4, Myers 4.
Records: Hillsboro Junior High (16-2).