CHARLESTOWN –In the end, the No.1-ranked team in Class 3A showed why they deserved such high position.
The Silver Creek Lady Dragons held upstart Rushville at arm’s length throughout the second half to move on to the state’s final four, turning the Lions back 54-45 in the regional championship Feb. 13 at Charlestown High School.

That said, the Lions played like contenders all night and not party crashers. 

The game was tied at 25 with three minutes to go in the opening half after sophomore Belle Gossett hit a three from the corner, her second of the game. 

The next hoop, however, would be enough to propel the Dragons into the lead for good; it came on Sydney Sierota’s 3. A pair of Lion turnovers followed. Just before the halftime horn, Gossett was fouled on a rebound attempt. Both teams had headed into the locker room, not realizing it was SC’s 7th foul. Gossett, facing the rowdy Dragon student body, missed the attempt to make it 28-25 at intermission.
Emme Rooney followed in her own miss when the second half got underway for a 5-point Dragon lead. Alana Striverson, one of three solid seniors for Silver Creek, made it 32-27 on a mid-range shot. Junior Olivia Yager scored the next three points as the Lions got within two.
Striverson hit from deep before Rushville committed just its second foul of the game. When 6-foot-1 senior Marissa Gasaway knocked down a short jumper, coach Melissa Marlow called a full timeout with her team trailing 37-30. Late in the period, sophomore point guard Briley Munchel completed an impressive 3-point play to make it a 4-point game with one stanza to go.

The other Striverson, Kynidi, added her own traditional 3-pointer early in the fourth. Junior Lexi Morris traded 3-point bombs with Rooney and added a basket off an inbound play to make it 43-38. With a 6-point lead, SC played stall ball as the Lions added to their foul total. K. Striverson and Yager swapped field goals and the former added a transition hoop to put the score at 48-40. The Dragons made 4 of 5 free throws to clinch the regional title.
A Munchel 3 opened the game’s scoring, followed by triples from K. Striverson and Gossett. A Yager tip-in made it 8-5 ahead of a 7-0 Dragon run in which Gasaway scored four of her game-high 13. SC led 12-10 after one complete.

Yager’s 3-point play brought the Lions within one early in the second stanza but 5 points from Munchel couldn’t offset the shooting of senior Jaclyn Emly, who forced a Lion timeout after a trio of 3-pointers. Rushville answered with a 7-0 run, sparked by Yager and Annika Marlow drives.
The loss ended the Lion careers of Jaeda Miller, Josie Fields, Abby Buckley and Emily Hadley. Yager scored 12 to pace the Lions, matched by K. Striverson and Emly. Munchel added 11. Team leaders in rebounds were Gasaway (14) and Miller (4). Marlow added 3 assists. Silver Creek shot over 44% from the field and Rushville countered with 42%.

SC (23-3) – Sierota 3 (3), Rooney 7 (3), Emly 12 (4-3s), Gasaway 13, A. Striverson 7 (3), K. Striverson 12 (3)
RCHS (18-9) –Yager 12, Miller 6, Marlow 5 (3), Munchel 11 (2-3s), Morris 5 (3), Gossett 6 (2-3s) 
Vs. Washington (semifinal)
If the Lions wanted to make semistate, they knew a pair of top-5 teams awaited them Saturday. The first was the Washington Lady Hatchets, coming in at No. 5.
In a game perfectly reflective of a regional semifinal, Rushville reclaimed the lead with 5:42 remaining and held off the talented Hatchets (55-52) to advance to the championship.

The Lions had led by as many as 11 in the first half but Washington came back to tie things at 36 with 3:19 left in the third.
Alaina Thorne scored in the paint to tie the game at 40 very early in the fourth. Munchel then dished to Yager for a key 3-point shot. The Hatchets weren’t rattled and got back-to-back goals from Jade Browning –the second on a runout –to go up by one.

In a pivotal minute of game time, the Lions forced a WHS timeout after Yager drove the left side of the baseline for two and Miller (Marlow assist) buried a 3-pointer.

Rushville started milking the clock, interrupted by Chloe Browning’s steal and conversion with 2:28 left. A Hatchet turnover soon led to Marlow’s fourth triple of the game and a 51-46 advantage. J. Browning made it a 3-point game but WHS needed to foul four more times to put the Lions at the line. When they finally did, Munchel coolly stepped up and made both at the 54.9 mark. Yager did likewise on the next trip, putting the lead at six.
Jesse Ledgerwood, the Hatchets’sole deep threat, halved the deficit with her third trey. After a Lion miss, Ledgerwood’s off-balance attempt to tie at the buzzer was way off target.

There were seven lead changes in a well-played first quarter, including six consecutive to end the frame. The first came early on when Munchel erased a 2-0 deficit with a 3-pointer. Two lay-ins by Miller made it 7-4 before Ledgerwood put WHS up 8-7 on a deuce. Thorne, a crafty 6-1 junior, scored twice for the Hatchets but answers came from Marlow and Miller.
Rushville played its best ball in the next eight minutes. Marlow opened the second period with a 3, then a scoring drive. Off a steal, Miller converted to prompt a Hatchet 30-second timeout at 20-12. Coach Gretchen Miles would need a full break soon, as Munchel hit from 3 and Miller went all the way in for a bucket to make it 25-14.

Yager’s putback kept the lead in double digits before a 6-point run by Thorne. With only eight seconds to go in the half, Marlow connected from distance; Thorne beat the clock at the other end to place the halftime score at 30-24.
Out of the locker room, Munchel found Yager for two. Washington, though, regrouped to score the next six and the Lions asked for time. Munchel and Miller fought for buckets in the low post but Ledgerwood landed two 3s for the tie. Marlow quickly responded with a 3 off an inbound pass.
Thorne led all players with 21 points and J. Browning put in 18. Marlow led four Lions in double digits with 16, as Miller had 15, Yager 12 and Munchel 10; Rushville canned 8 threes. Ledgerwood added 11 points for the Hatchets.

RCHS (18-8) – Yager 12 (3), Marlow 16 (4-3s), Munchel 10 (2-3s), Miller 15 (3), Sophia Dora 2
W (19-2) – Ledgerwood 11 (3-3s), C. Browning 2, J. Browning 18, Thorne 21