By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
GARDEN CITY — After holding an eight-point lead in the first half, a sluggish second half against No. 9 Independence led to a 69-65 loss for the No. 10 Lady Saints at the Holiday Classic in Garden City Friday.
For the first 15 minutes, Seward was able to execute its offense and get the ball below the basket. The ability to penetrate the lane also opened up shots from the three-point line.
A basket by Mariah Lee gave the Lady Saints a 28-20 lead with 6:53 to play in the first half. Indy’s Emily Peterson answered with a three, and momentum shifted to the Lady Pirates the rest of the half.
The Lady Saints began to foul Independence often, and the Lady Pirates were abel to effectively connect on their free throws.
Independence erased the Seward advantage and only trailed by one, 36-35 at the half.
Seward’s defense was strong in the paint in the first half. Indy’s leading scorer, Dominique Mosley, was limited to four points in the first half.
But defensive breakdowns in the second half allowed the Lady Pirate to score nine in the second half.
Seward built the lead to three points in the second half with a basket from Ashlynn Knoll that gave the Lady Saints a 40-37 lead.
But the Lady Saints only scored four points over the next six minutes while Independence took advantage of Seward County fouls and scored 16 points to take a 53-44 lead with 9:01 to play.
Kayla Thomas broke the drought with a three-pointer, and a pair of free throws cut the Indy advantage go 55-49.
A basket from Hanna Bognar and three free throws from Knoll narrowed the gap to 57-54 with 4:00 to play.
But Independence slowed the game down and took advantage of Lady Saint turnovers to stretch the lead back to 64-57 with 2:15 to play.
Mattie Yanke made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 64-59. Seward had a chance to get the ball on an out-of-bounds play when it appeared Indy’s Diara Moore touched the ball before it hit the ground, but the official awarded the ball to Indy.
Seward coach Toby Wynn came off the bench to protest the call, but there was no reversal, and the Lady Saints had to start fouling. The Lady Pirates were able to connect on five of eight free throws in the final 47 seconds of the game while the Lady Saints connected on a three pointer from Knoll and an old-fashioned three point play from Knoll with 10.9 seconds to play that cut the lead to three, but two late steals by Independence cut Seward’s rally short.
Knoll led the Lady Saints with 24 points. Lee scored 16. The Lady Saints only shot 29.6 percent in the second half.
The No. 10 Lady Saints (7-1) played New Mexico JC Saturday.