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Friday, January 27th, 2012

Indians slip past Rangers with one-point win

Fort Recovery rallies from down three in final 1:30

By Gary R. Rasberry

Fort Recovery's Kelly Nietfeld, 40, blocks the shot of New Knoxville's Haley Hor. . .

FORT RECOVERY - The matchup between New Knoxville and Fort Recovery on Thursday night turned out to be a battle that wasn't decided until the final horn.
Kelly Nietfeld's jumper with 29 seconds left put the Indians up and then Nietfeld made a huge defensive play as time ran out as Fort Recovery snapped a two-game losing streak with a 52-51 win over New Knoxville at Fort Site Fieldhouse on Thursday night to snap the Rangers' eight-game winning streak.  
The matchup featured 13 ties and 11 lead changes.
Shooting-wise, the game was firmly in the Rangers' court, as New Knoxville hit seven of its eight shots in the first quarter and finished with 60 percent field-goal shooting (21-of-35) compared to Fort Recovery's 19-of-50 clip (38 percent).
The difference in the game came on the defensive side of the floor. The Rangers, up 10-2 early in the game, turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter and the Indians tied the game at 14-all after the first eight minutes of play. New Knoxville turned the ball over 23 times in the game, 10 more than Fort Recovery's total.
"We've been struggling lately," said Fort Recovery's coach Doug Bihn. "You still have to defend. I told the kids this week that if you don't defend, no matter what else we do, if we can't stop people from scoring, we don't deserve to win. We went back to the basics and worked on our defensive game. Tonight, it was better. I didn't think we could press tonight. (Haley) Horstman is too quick in the open court. ... We tried to pick our times to give her a little pressure. Knoxville is a good team."
"We didn't take care of the ball," said New Knoxville's coach Tim Hegemier, who was looking for his 100th win as Rangers' coach. "You have to give Fort Recovery credit. They were putting the pressure on."
The Rangers went into the fourth quarter up 37-34, a lead that was short-lived as Olivia Schwieterman hit a three-pointer to tie the score 27 seconds into the final quarter.
The back-and-forth game sauntered through until the two-minute warning. Paige Lehman, dominant in the paint for most of the night for the Rangers, got a bucket to fall with 2:39 on the clock to put the Rangers up 49-47. After an Indians' turnover, New Knoxville's Meg Reineke was fouled and made both free throws to push the lead to 51-47 with 2:09 to play in the game, the largest lead for the Rangers since the first quarter.
The Indians missed on their next chance to score, but a turnover under the New Knoxville basket gave the ball back to the Indians. Fort Recovery's Chelsea Pottkotter then hit a three-pointer with 1:17 on the clock to cut the Indians' deficit to 51-50. On the ensuing New Knoxville possession, Horstman was called for palming the ball while trying to maintain her balance, which gave the Indians the ball with 57.8 seconds left.
Fort Recovery worked the ball around and Nietfeld missed a shot, but Pottkotter grabbed the offensive rebound. With 29 seconds left in the game, Nietfeld stepped into the paint just inside the foul line and swished a jumper to put the Indians up 52-51.
With several fouls to give before putting New Knoxville in the bonus, Fort Recovery used a couple to slow down the Rangers' play, which helped force a jump ball and the Indians had the possession arrow with 11.9 seconds left in the game. The Rangers fouled Pottkotter to send her to the line for the one-and-one opportunity, but Pottkotter missed and Reineke collected the rebound and called for a timeout with 6.4 seconds on the clock.
The Rangers looked to get the ball to the speedy Horstman, who slipped a bit but still got within striking distance for a game-winning shot attempt, only to have Nietfeld block the shot and then grab the rebound as time expired.
"I'm happy with the kids," said Bihn. "We haven't been shooting with a lot of confidence. Maybe this will get us back on the right track. ... It's a lot easier to have confidence when you win. This was a great game tonight. We're lucky to come out with a one-point win."
"Team fouls were in their favor, so they could put the pressure on," said Hegemier. "We didn't handle it.
"We had a four-point lead with 1:30 to go and we had three turnovers. You just can't do that," added Hegemier.
Hegemier hopes that his young team, with a freshman and two sophomores in the starting lineup, can build from the loss.
"I told them after the game 'Learn from it. You know how you feel now. Just bottle it up, suck it up and go on.'," said Hegemier.
Nietfeld led all players with 15 points while Pottkotter scored 10 points off the bench.
Lehman's 12 points led four in double figures for New Knoxville. Horstman added 11 points with Reineke and Tiana Heidt scoring 10 apiece.
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