The Pilots' Jensen Caretti and Haylee Bowers both tallied double-doubles, but it wasn't enough to resist a 45-29 defeat by Conotton Valley Feb. 20 inside Union Local High School Gymnasium in the Division IV Co-sectional championship.
Conotton went on a 7-0 run halfway through the first quarter when Pilot Head Coach Rick Isaly called a time out. After the short break, the Rockets pick-pocketed their third Pilot ball handler and finished it off with a lay-in.
Bowers scored River's first points with a driving lay up at the three minute mark of the opening stanza. Abby Caldwell made a steal, but another Pilot turnover made it 11-2, Conotton Valley lead. However, Bowers answered with a second basket of the period to cut the deficit to 11-4. But, the OVAC Class-1A champions dialed in from long distance to end the first quarter with a 10-point lead.
The Rockets made another steal and turned it into points to open the second stanza, but Bowers quickly answered within a basket just inside the arch. Caldwell then swished the back end of a two-shot free throw.
After a Rocket charity toss, Bowers banked one in off the glass, right before the Pilots' leading scorer, Jensen Caretti, made the first of two points from the free throw stripe. However, shortly later, Bowers was guilty of her third foul and sat out the remainder of the period.
Monica Curtis tallied the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt for the Pilots' last points of the period. The Rockets ended the period on a 5-0 run that included a high floater just over the out-stretched hands of 6'1" Caretti for a 27-12 advantage at the break.
Conotton Valley tallied the first points of the third with a put-back. But, after a Caretti block, Bowers scored from inside. However, she would pick up foul number four at the five minute mark of the third stanza.
The Rockets would nail a three pointer late in the period that pushed their advantage to 32-14 before Caldwell swished a jumper. Caretti scored her first field goal of the game with .30 seconds remaining in the period and the Rockets on top 36-18.
The Pilots did outscore the Rockets in the fourth frame, 11-9, with Caretti leading the charge with seven points that included one from beyond the arch.
"We couldn't do most of the things we normally try to do because Jensen's athletic ability wasn't up to full par," said Isaly. "She had rolled her ankle in practice the day before and it bothered her the whole time and definitely affected her game.
"Conotton Valley has a nice ball team. There is a reason they've won all of the games they have so far. They've got nice guards and their bog girls are talented," added Isaly.
The Lady Pilots ended a successful season with a 15-7 record and a second seed in the OVAC Class-2A tournament. River will lose only Mikayla Cieszeski to graduation. She started early in the season before injuring her knee, but dressed for the final game in her career.