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Triad outlasts Salem in playoff opener

By Anthony Jones

TROY — Triad girls basketball had a less than ideal start to their postseason.

The Lady Knights, who hosted Salem on Feb. 10, found themselves in a 13-11 after one quarter. By halftime, they fell further behind 24-18 and had four starters pick up multiple fouls.

Coach Josh Hunt recalled his halftime message to the team, “I know we’re down six but the halftime score is the least important score in the history of any sport you ever play, so this score means nothing. We’ve just got to go out there and be who we are and play how we can play.”

Salem extended their lead to as many as nine points before Triad began their comeback rally.

With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter and faced with a 30-22 deficit, Erica Boyce kickstarted a Lady Knight rally with a triple. Following that, Makenna Witham struck from beyond the arc and Emerson Guidry netted a put back to tie the affair at 30-30.

Triad took their first lead of the contest by a 32-31 tally with four seconds remaining in the third frame. The lead taking points came from Boyce, who banked a shot in through contact and pushed her team ahead 33-31 from the line.

An early fourth quarter layup for the Wildcats reinstated a tie but a pair of deep threes from Savannah Hildebrand over a span of 13 seconds catapulted Triad ahead 39-33. The junior’s long range shots proved to be the game’s final lead change as the Lady Knights would ultimately win 56-45.

With a final tally of 24 points, Hildebrand led all scorers in the regional quarterfinal. Half of the junior’s points came in the final frame that saw Triad net 23 points.

Two other Lady Knights, Witham and Boyce, broke double digits as well with respective totals of 14 and 13.

Triad’s bench also proved vital in the win that saw all five Lady Knight starters pick up three fouls.

“We had great minutes from our bench. I really appreciate all the hard work and effort they put in. Even the girls that didn’t get in brought energy and enthusiasm that was a difference maker,” Hunt spoke of the group.

The sixth-seeded Lady Knights will continue postseason play on Feb. 12 in a 6 p.m. tipoff at Salem. There, they will meet the second-seed Effingham Flaming Hearts that hold a 25-4 record and were ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press Poll for Class 3A.

Triad added two more wins to their resume last week before postseason action began.

The first came on Feb. 6, when they visited the Columbia Eagles. Their non-conference opponent entered the meeting with a 14-13 record.

After starting behind 10-8 through one quarter, Triad outpaced the hosts in the final three quarters for a 53-37 victory.

With 20 points from Hildebrand and 18 from Witham, the Lady Knights’ top-two scorers combined for 38 points over the showing.

Triad’s regular season finale came two days later on their home court against Mascoutah. The hosts landed a 49-39 win, marking their second victory over the Indians.

With the win, the squad improved to 5-5 in Mississippi Valley Conference play. This left them in a tie for third-place alongside Jersey.

Hildebrand once again led the team in offense, finishing with 19 points and five triples. The junior has tallied 74 three pointers on the season, a tally that leads the St. Louis area.

The conference matchup also served as senior night for Triad’s lone fourth-year athlete, Maddie Hunt. Hunt netted 10 points in the win.

“She has done a tremendous job and is a great leader. She understands her role and that’s what I really appreciate about her. She’s got leadership qualities about her that the girls really follow and I really appreciate that about her,” Coach Hunt spoke of the senior who has tallied 356 points across 94 varsity appearances.

Savannah Hildebrand drives through contact in her 24 point playoff showing. (Photo by Anthony Jones)

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