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Friday, April 18, 2014
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Published: 2/20/2014

SPORTS COMMENTARY

Regrets are few after BG showdown

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

BOWLING GREEN — Regrets, I’ve had a few, crooned Frank Sinatra.

Bowling Green’s women’s basketball team was 11-1 in Mid-American Conference play entering Wednesday night’s showdown with Central Michigan.

So, that ‘1’ was pretty easy for the Falcons to remember.

It happened in the first meeting between the teams at CMU when Bowling Green spit up a pretty substantial lead when the Chippewas went to full-court pressure.

Jillian Halfhill remembered. And she recalled the regret, too.

“I’m the point guard,” the senior said. “The ball’s supposed to be in my hands. My big regret was that it wasn’t.”

This time was different.

Halfhill played 39 minutes and scored a game-high 18 points, including a 9-for-9 mark from the free throw line, mostly down the stretch, and was a relentless pest on defense in BG’s 67-55 win at the Stroh Center.

The Chippewas came in ranked in the top-10 nationally in offense, averaging 84.2 points per game. So, the 55 under CMU on the scoreboard is pretty impressive and it’s what all the Falcons wanted to talk about.

But the story behind the story was the first game and how it ended and how the Falcons panicked, became discombobulated and gave one away.

BG had an 11-point lead with three minutes to play, but turned the ball over against the press five times down the stretch and saw a 17-1 CMU run win the game in overtime.

On Wednesday, BG had a powerful start to the second half and went up by 19 points, 54-35, with the exclamation points being back-to-back treys by Sylvania Northview product Miriam Justinger and Halfhill.

CMU went to its press, trapping the ball at every opportunity, and the Falcons turned it over a few times, missed a couple shots, and had a 10-second violation. It wasn’t long before the lead was cut in half with lots of time yet to play.

Now you can believe BG center Jill Stein, if you want, when she said afterward that, “I didn’t feel a déjà vu moment like we were scared. I felt we were in control.”

Welllll, maybe.

But a pretty raucous crowd at the Stroh got awfully quiet. Coach Jennifer Roos slapped the scorer’s table a couple times and her cheeks got bright red.

The Falcons, however, never slipped into a complete panic mode because Halfhill, the shortest player on the court at 5-foot-6, came up bigger than anyone.

Her drive for an old-fashioned, three-point play with 5:13 left put the Falcons up 59-46. Her perfect bounce pass to Alexis Rogers for a layup made it 61-48. Then she started driving and getting fouled and, as we mentioned, she was nothing short of perfect at the line.

“I put it on myself to break their press,” said Halfhill, from Canfield in eastern Ohio. “No silly turnovers this time.

“We were stopping them on the defensive end, getting them one [shot] and done. Then [offensively] we would take our time before converting at the end of the shot clock rather than pushing tempo. And [the ball] ended up in my hands when the shot clock was running down.”

That wasn’t by mistake said Roos, who credited her staff with a great game plan and her team with the type of execution that can drive a stake into the opponent’s heart.

“Jillian had been clutch down the stretch making foul shots so, yes, we wanted the ball in her hands,” Roos said. “I talk to the team about not having regrets, but I appreciate her feeling that way about the first game. She’s driving the bus.”

A bus will take the Falcons to Cleveland for the MAC tournament next month. It might have huffed and puffed its way there on fumes had BG, now 22-3 and 12-1 in the league, not won Wednesday night. Instead, they’ll roll into town on a full tank of gas.

We’re talking metaphorically, of course. We’re talking about attitude and a little swagger.

“We absolutely had to win this game,” Halfhill said. “It’s definitely a turning point.”

A turning point that made the turn at point guard.

No regrets this time.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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