NHC stumble, City rally cut short

   COLUMBIA CITY — While everyone in the stands was helping fight the same battle against cancer, Columbia City and Homestead girls’ basketball teams were in the midst of a contest that had the potential to shake up the Northeast Hoosier Conference standings.
   Despite a poor shooting night, a Lady Spartans team, perfect in the conference, remained unblemished. A late rally from Columbia City fell just a basket short in the closing minute as Homestead held on 54-50.
   “Late in the fourth quarter we did tremendous working our way back into the game,” Columbia City head coach Amy Shearer said. “But there are some game situations we’re going to take from the loss and try to make us better and more prepared for sectional.”
   With three games remaining in the conference schedule, Columbia City (10-6, 1-4) and Homestead (13-2, 5-0) stood on different ends of the NHC spectrum.
   With a win over defending champion Norwell already, the Spartans game against the Lady Eagles proved to be one of their final tests for a conference title.
   Columbia City had guard Kayla Dunn back in the lineup after an injury to her hand.
   Her return made the difference in the first half as Columbia City traded the lead with Homestead.
   Dunn’s penetration helped the Lady Eagles shoot 7-for-10 (70 percent) from the field in the first quarter.
   Six different Lady Eagles scored as Columbia City jumped out to a 15-10 lead.
   Despite shooting struggles from the field the entire night, Homestead managed to fight its way back in the second quarter. The Spartans got help from two three-point plays.
   The first came early as Emily Bley finished a 5-0 run for Homestead to open the second.
   The final one came with 28.3 seconds remaining as Karley Dobis took the foul and a basket into the locker room with Homestead down 23-22.
   Looking for answers to a Columbia City offense that was led by its post play, Homestead went to a 2-3 zone in the second half.
   The Spartans forced Columbia City into a turnover plagued third quarter. Meanwhile, Homestead went on a 17-9 run with its season leading scorer Jena Hamrick breaking into the scoring column with five of her 11 points.
   Down 39-32 heading into the fourth quarter, Columbia City trailed by as much as 13 points with (49-36) with 1:35 remaining.
   The Lady Eagles challenged Homestead at the free throw line sending the Spartans to the line seven times remaining time.
   Shooting 7-for-14 from the foul line, Homestead opened the door for Columbia City.
   Two three-point baskets by senior Maddie Hinen and a three-point play from Corinna Raypole helped the Eagles close to within three points, 52-49, with 14.2 seconds left.
   With a chance to tie, Columbia City called on Kayla Dunn with a drive to the basket for an apparent score and a foul.
   The foul was called on the ground sending Dunn to the line for two free throws instead of a three-point play.
   Cutting it to 52-50 with one free throw, Homestead locked up the win with two free throws from Bley.
   Raypole and Hinen both scored 11 points in the loss along with leading scorer Sierria Burlage with 13 points.
   “We played hard,” Shearer noted. “The kids are going to learn from the loss tonight. I have to commend them on the way they fought back. They didn’t just roll over and die.”

Whitko snags TRC road win
   The Whitko girls’ basketball team picked up a win on the road in the Three Rivers Conference Saturday night.
   The Lady Wildcats (8-8, 3-2) used a 24-point fourth quarter to pad a 31-20 halftime lead and win their third conference game over Southwood (5-9, 1-4) 67-48.
   Leading the way were two role players for Whitko. Katee Reiff posted a game-high 15 points with senior Nicole Slaymaker one point back with 14.
   Other scorers for Whitko were: Rachelle Kessie 10, Cagney Craig 10, Micaela Sylvester 9, Karissa Olinske 7, Josie Sparks 2.