UC lives, ultimately perishes, by 3-ball

UC lives, ultimately perishes, by 3-ball
UC lives, ultimately perishes, by 3-ball
ATWOOD — You live by the sword, you die by the sword.
After making five 3-pointers in the first half while building an eight-point lead, Union City hit just 2-of-11 shots from beyond the arc over the final two periods in what was ultimately a heartbreaking 46-45 loss to Bradford Monday night in the Region 7A girls semifinals.
The gut-wrenching loss — which wasn’t realized until Shenisha Huff’s 10-footer bounced off the rim at the buzzer — kept the gallant Lady Tornadoes from securing the first-ever sectional bid in their program’s history.
UC closed its season with a 16-14 mark and matched the best-ever tournament play finish of four other modern-era Twister girls teams by making it to the regional semis.
Meanwhile, tradition-rich Bradford, which has six state championships in its illustrious history, will now play No. 1-ranked Lake County in Wednesday’s Region 7A final and then advance on to sectional play Saturday night against either Scotts Hill or Middleton.
Having largely made a living this season off its post game, Union City — which split a pair of regular season matchups against the Devilettes — instead attacked Bradford’s zone from the perimeter Monday.
And for a half, the Purple and Gold had great success.
Shenisha Huff made three straight 3-pointers and Amber Fair knocked down two more treys as the Lady Tornadoes were 5-for-8 shooting trifectas while assuming a 23-15 lead late in the second quarter.
Ill-advised shot attempts from the outside while they were still in front over the final two periods, however, cost UC dearly in its bid to make school history with a sectional berth.
The Lady Twisters hit just 1-of-7 from three-ball range in the fourth quarter and did not score for nearly five minutes while falling behind 39-32.
“I really didn’t mind us taking the three, as long as it was in the right person’s hands during that time,” Union City head coach Eddie Suiter said softly afterward. “We sort of flip-flopped how we attacked them during the season, and we got some good looks with Shenisha and Amber there in the first half.
“All year long, though, we’ve pounded the ball inside. There were a couple of possessions where we should’ve pulled it out against the zone and been a little more patient. And if you look at the other two games against them: In the game we lost, we had 18 points from 3-pointers. In the game we won, we had zero points from 3-pointers. Tonight, was the same storyline.”
Using a decided advantage on the offensive glass, coupled with effective fullcourt defensive pressure, the Lady Tornadoes did fight to the very end and actually retook the lead despite their untimely offensive cold spell to start the fourth period and following a third quarter when they scored just seven points.
Union City went on an 11-2 tear, taking a 43-41 lead when Fair threw up a third-chance follow-shot that miraculously banked in with less than two minutes to go.
A pair of critical missed one-and-one free throw chances, however (UC was 8-of-15 for the game), opened the door for Bradford’s Jackilann Street to go coast-to-coast for a layup that gave the Lady Devils a 44-43 advantage with 21 seconds to go.
An airball on UC’s final 3-point attempt of the night forced the locals into a fouling situation, and Amanda Evans made two foul shots to stretch the difference to 46-43 with 8.7 seconds showing.
Then, Bradford intentionally fouled Huff, who made the first of two free throws and then banked in the second when she was actually trying to miss with just under seven seconds to go.
A Bradford turnover near midcourt gave the Twisters a shot at a game-winner with 2.8 seconds left, but Huff’s jumper along the right baseline hit the back of the rim and danced away at the buzzer.
Suiter had high words of praise for his four seniors — Huff, Kierra Davis, Ashton Pirtle and Shakeyvia Gauldin — who played their final games in a UCHS uniform.
“A lot of people have said to me that we’ll be back here soon, but what they don’t realize is that we had good contributions from two senior starters (Huff, Davis) and then two more seniors as our first subs,” the coach continued.
“We have two good freshmen (Fair, Jackie Hudson) who have promising futures if they continue to work hard, but we have to have some other people step up, too, like these seniors did this year.”
Huff finished her career Monday with a game-high 19 points, while Fair totaled 13 for Union City. Davis was just a point shy of double figures, with nine.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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