By Eric Shannon
Hilldale’s Destiny Riddle waited until 2:17 left in the third quarter to make her presence known in the Class 4A Area IV District 8 championship game Friday at the Hilldale Event Center.
Riddle calmly drained back-to-back 3-pointers from the top of the circle. That ignited the Lady Hornets on 13-1 run to close out the third period en route to a 56-40 win over the Roland Lady Rangers.
“They kind of forgot about me there for a little bit,” said Riddle “They were focused on the inside and they left me the angles to get open and I finally hit them.”
Riddle missed her two other 3-point attempts. Hillary Calvert followed her makes with another 3 to inflate a nine-point lead to 47-28.
“After Destiny hit those two shots, they slid over to her and left me open in the corner,” said Calvert. “It was a good pass from Destiny to set me up over there.”
Calvert played as big a part as anyone, punching in eight of her team-high 18 points in the third stanza, while picking off two passes in that same period.
“We hit some big shots tonight and moved the ball around to the open girl all night,” said Hilldale coach Scott Hensley. “I am happy with the way we played. This was a good team effort all-around.”
Leading 29-22 entering the third quarter, the Lady Hornets (15-6) seemed to have everything under control. That included Roland’s Mikiah McDonald who was Hilldale’s main focus on the night.
“Coach really wanted us to focus on 44 (McDonald) and limit her touches,” said Calvert. “We really played her hard in the paint and made her work for everything.”
McDonald still managed 20 points and eight rebounds for Roland (8-13). She had all of the Lady Rangers’ third-quarter points.
But as imposing as McDonald might have been the combination of McKenzie Plant and Kenzie Mize kept the Lady Rangers offense off balance on the night.
“We wanted to buzz around the ball and be a defensive team tonight and slow down McDonald,” said Hensley. “This was a defensive team victory tonight and it took a total team effort to win this one.”
Katie Kirkhart quietly added 11 points and three steals on the night as Plant finished with eight rebounds.
Hilldale plays tonight’s Broken Bow-Poteau winner in a 6:30 Thursday regional semifinal at Poteau.
Roland 53, Hilldale 35
Roland’s Manual Bunch unloaded 10 third-quarter points, three more than the Hornets as a team in that same time to propel the Rangers to the district championship.
Bunch finished the night with a double-double, a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“We just couldn’t get any shots to fall tonight,” said Hornets coach Jeremy Rogers. “We played pretty good defense and held them most of the game but our offensive end let us down.”
After running out to a 16-11 first-quarter lead behind Chandler Puckett’s quick pair of layups, the Hornets looked like they were in business. They also forced Roland (16-6) into six turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game.
Dakota Holmes added six of his eight points in the second quarter. Roland’s Madison Bunch popped a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game at 17 all with 6:16 remaining before halftime. Hilldale regained the lead and carried a 25-24 advantage into the locker room.
Then the proverbial wheels fell off the bus.
Hilldale managed only nine points in the next 18 minutes of play, two points in the final quarter as the Hornets only connected on four field goal attempts and turned the ball over 12 times.
The Hornets were forced to play short-handed on the offensive end with guard Hunter Howe out with a knee injury.
“Missing Hunter does hurt us offensively,” said Rogers. “Does he make up 18 points, I don’t know. But we did have a seven-game win streak with him in there and without him in the rotation, it makes a difference.”
Hilldale plays tonight’s Broken Bow-Poteau loser at Poteau at 3 p.m. Thursday.