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Lady Knights fall to State-Ranked Hearts

By Anthony Jones

TROY — After opening their postseason with a 56-45 comeback win over Salem, Triad earned a regional semifinal matchup with Effingham.

Headed into their Feb. 12 showdown at Salem, Effingham held a 26-4 overall record. The Flaming Hearts’ impressive mark earned them a ranking of ninth in the latest Associated Press Poll for Class 3A.

The 16-15 Lady Knights took their first lead of the matchup after two minutes of play, when Savannah Hildebrand uncorked a deep triple to go ahead 3-2. Delaney Hess knocked down a subsequent three-pointer for a 6-2 advantage.

Across the remainder of the quarter, the teams continued to trade baskets before arriving at a 13-13 draw. Hildebrand supplied seven of Triad’s points across the early action.

Mid-way through the second quarter, senior Maddie Hunt pushed the Lady Knights ahead 17-15 after knocking down a layup through strong contact. Effingham would provide the rest of the half’s offense however, ending on a 9-0 run that featured a lengthy three at the horn.

Faced with a 24-17 deficit, the situation continued to sour for Triad as they allowed an 8-4 run that pushed Effingham ahead 32-21 with three minutes left in the period.

Sophomore Erica Boyce closed the gap over the next stretch of play with a pair of free throws and a three-point shot.

The third quarter’s final points, a layup from Makenna Witham with four seconds remaining, cut Triad’s deficit down to 36-30. Witham’s late basket brought her to six points in the frame.

Despite the Lady Knights’ late momentum, a 13-0 Effingham run to start the fourth quarter solidified their lead at 49-30. The Flaming Hearts defended their reinforced advantage until arriving at a 55-34 final.

With 11 points, Hildebrand paced Triad’s attack in the defeat. The next highest scoring Lady Knight, Witham, provided nine.

Hildebrand’s double-digit outing brought her season point total to 416. The junior’s team-leading tally made her the first Lady Knight to hit the four century mark since Sophie Thompson in 2016.

With 396 points on the season, Witham finished second on the team in scoring. The third-year Lady Knight led the team in rebounds and steals with respective totals of 189 and 88.

Triad’s lone senior, Maddie Hunt, paced the squad with 77 assists on the year.

Finishing with an overall record of 16-16, the Lady Knights capped off a stark improvement from their previous 5-23 campaign. Triad’s Mississippi Valley Conference record also saw a dramatic leap forward with a 5-5 finish after going 1-9 the previous season.

Senior Maddie Hunt drives up court in postseason play. (Photo by Anthony Jones)

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