Hilldale had the hot hand to start Senior Night.
It needed some hot hands to finish.
They got both Friday night in a playoff-intense 69-61 win over Locust Grove.
Ty O’Neal carried most of the luggage in the fourth quarter, wearing the Pirates out in the low post with 11 of his 19 points, but it was Hunter Parson’s off-balance trey-and-one as he fell to the floor on the foul by Gavin Clift — his fourth, with 56.4 to play — making it 67-61, that put it away.
“I knew he got behind me so I had to get it out (of my hands) because I knew he would foul me,” Parson said. “Man, we started the second half slow but we picked it up.”
Hensley had his arm around the blue collar of O’Neal as they left the court.
“This guy here, he didn’t start tonight because it was Senior Night,” Hensley said. “But he came in and he showed how you’re supposed to act when you’re on the bench. He’s cheering for his teammates. When he’s in the game he doesn’t do anything but want the ball and fight for the ball and go get the ball and go put the ball in the goal.”
O’Neal definitely got caught up in the second-half tempo.
“We weren’t very physical to start the game but coach gave us a little spark and I gave a spark and I just lit it up,” he said.
Hilldale (16-5) was whistled for three technicals in a bizarre third quarter, one on Hornets coach Scott Hensley. The Pirates, once down 18-5 in the contest, would forge ahead 46-45 to end the third.
Locust Grove had 33 first-quarter points in the first meeting and led 50-37 at the half in winning 84-80. But it was the Hornets in this one that was on pace early to smash those totals.
Parson connected from 22 feet out off the right wing then came back with a left corner 3 that took the Hornets into a Locust Grove timeout. That scoring pace continued for just over three minutes. Hilldale was on pace to top the Pirates’ flurry in the first meeting, up 18-5 on Sean Lester’s drive out of transition with 4:22 to play in the opening period.
That pace would slow, however, and Locust Grove (12-8) was able to chip away, getting within six, 30-24, on a 3 by Clift with 1:55 to play until halftime. The Hornets would close on a 7-2 run that ended with senior Garrett Vandiver’s bucket with under a minute to play. It was Vandiver who drew the start in place of O’Neal.
Parson had 17 and Lawson 16 for Hilldale.
Zeke Simpson had 23 for Locust Grove.
Locust Grove 53, Hilldale 49
The Lady Hornets, who fell to 10-11, were impressive offensively in the third quarter, shooting 67 percent (10-of-15) and with just one turnover compared to 12 in the first half and 25 percent shooting (5-of-20). Trailing 20-14 at the break, they connected on their first three shots and eventually grabbed the lead, 26-25, on Skye Been’s layup with 3:12 to go in the quarter.
They trailed by one starting the fourth quarter, and it stayed a one-possession game for much of it.
Locust Grove’s Landrey Sweeny hit a pair of 3s, one with her team up 37-36 and the other with the contest tied at 40 after Been had scored on a reverse layup with 4:20 to play. Sweeney had 18 points.
Free throws widened the gap to seven. Mariah Maxwell’s 3 with 3.9 left was all Hilldale had left with just two baskets in the final 2:41.
Been led Hilldale with 13. Peyton Gaddy, on her Senior Night, had 11.
Down 11-5 after one, the Hornets made it a one-possession game twice in the second quarter, at 11-9 on Navaeh Johson’s basket and at 14-11 on a shot by Gaddy with 3:15 to go. Back-to-back pair of free throws gave the Pirates (15-5) a seven-point edge, then Gaddy had a three-point play to make it 18-14.
Locust was 19-of-22 from the line. Hilldale was 7-of-7 from the line.
“Defensively we played pretty well all night until the fourth quarter where it looked like our legs were tiring, but offensively we definitely executed offensively better than we have in a while,” said Hilldale coach Cliff Warford.
“The big foul discrepancy hurt us. The majority of their points seemed like they were coming at the line after we get a bucket. But I’m proud of our effort.”