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One Tall Order

March 08, 2023 - 00:00
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  • One Tall Order
    LOMEGA’S Aliana Lawson attempts to deny the ball to Hammon’s 6-foot-4 post player Henley West during the Class B state championship game on Saturday. [KT&FP Staff Photo]
  • One Tall Order
    STATE RUNNER-UP – Members of Lomega’s basketball team pose with the 2023 Class B state runner-up trophy after falling to Hammon in last Saturday night’s title game at State Fair Arena. The Lady Raiders have played in the last four championship games

It was almost a helpless feeling for Kevin Lewallen.

Next to him on the bench was senior Darcy Roberts, one of his necessary assets in Lomega’s bid to win a third state championship in four years.

On the court, that title was slipping away as Hammon made a massive second-quarter run while Roberts sat with three fouls.

She returned and Lomega charged back.

But not quite enough. The second-ranked Lady Raiders were forced to settle for the silver ball for a second straight year as they were defeated 59-49 by Hammon in Saturday’s Class B state title game.

It was Hammon’s third title in school history while Lomega was playing for the championship for a fourth straight year.

“The second quarter just killed us,” said Lewallen, who now has coached the Lady Raiders in 11 championship games. Only four have ended with silver.

The quarter he referenced saw Hammon turn a 15-11 advantage into a 3617 halftime lead.

Roberts picked up her third foul with 3:51 to go in the half and her team down by eight.

Lomega didn’t score another field goal in the half as Hammon closed on a 14-3 run.

“We have to be able to score, even in those situations,” Lewallen said. “We can’t just score six in a quarter because we’re not going to be able to hold them to six in a quarter. They’re just too good.”

And big. The Lady Warriors feature 6-foot-4 sophomore Henley West, who was a menace on both ends of the court.

She scored eight points during the last portion of the first half, including putting back her own miss with two seconds to go in the quarter.

The towering West had 17 points and seven rebounds by halftime alone.

“She’s good and she’s gotten so much better than last year,” said Lewallen. “In fact, she’s gotten better since we played them in early January.”

West scored 28 points when Hammon topped Lomega 66-55 in the finals of the Warrior Classic on Jan. 7.

Maylee Chaney added 22 that night.

“If they score 50 points combined tonight, we can’t beat them,” Lewallen said before the game.

They didn’t get 50, but they were close.

West finished with 21 points and 12 boards. She averaged a double-double at state and was named its MVP.

Chaney also scored 21 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

“She is still the key for them because she can score in a lot of ways and she always plays so hard,” Lewallen said. Despite the glowing efforts of those two, Lomega still climbed its way back into it.

Roberts and Abby Swart combined to score all 20 of Lomega’s third-quarter points as the Lady Raiders crept back within 47-37.

Roberts had 13 of those points despite picking up her fourth foul just 94 seconds into the quarter.

When Swart nailed a 3-pointer - her fifth of the game - with 3:38 to play, the Lady Raiders found themselves within 51-45.

Twice more Lomega got within that margin, but couldn’t close the gap any further.

“We kept charging, but eventually just didn’t have enough time,” Lewallen said. “Even if we score 10 or 12 in that second quarter, I think we have a real chance.”

Sydni Walker scored two points and had three rebounds and three assists in her final game, all while battling with West in the post.

She also battled an injury much of the year…and her career.

“Sydni played hurt all year this year..really since after Christmas last year,” Lewallen said.

“She is as tough as they come. A lot of girls would not even attempt to play, let alone average almost double-double like she did.”

Swart led all scorers with 22 points.

The junior scored 21 and had nine rebounds in Lomega’s 51-46 victory against Pittsburg in Friday’s semifinal.

Pittsburg was the team that denied Lomega its third straight championship in last year’s title game.

The Lady Panthers spent a good portion of the night working to limit Roberts’ touches.

“They really keyed on Darcy, so Abby stepped up for us with some big shots,” Lewallen said. “And she attacked a lot more in that game, which she’s capable of doing. She had a great tournament.”

Lomega led by eight points entering the fourth, but Pittsburg found its way back into it.

The Lady Panthers tied the game late, but Lomega had a secret weapon.

Monse Rivera.

After Pittsburg tied up the game, the junior caught a pass in the corner and calmly sank the go-ahead 3-pointer.

Lomega commenced to ride out the win.

“She took two shots all night,” Lewallen said. “One was a layup to start the game and the other was the biggest shot of the game… and she made them both.”

The role players weren’t able to emerge as much against Hammon.

Swart and Roberts were a combined 8 of 15 from 3-point range. The rest of the group went 0 for 6.

Four different Hammon players made at least one 3-pointer, including West on her only attempt.

Swart was named to the all-tournament team and was joined there by Roberts.

In her final appearance in a Lomega uniform, Roberts scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

For her career, she finished with 1,746 points and 978 rebounds.

“It’s crazy the career she’s had,” Lewallen said.

Like Walker, Roberts started on four teams that reached the state finals. The Lady Raiders won two championships to go with the last two runner-up finishes.

Roberts was the state tournament MVP when the Lady Raiders won gold in 2021.

“I told Sydni and Darcy that I’ve never coached anyone who started all four years and finished every year in the state championship game,” Lewallen said.

“As far as that goes, they are as accomplished as any duo. They’ve meant a lot to this program and we’re definitely going to miss them.”