Mike McDermott, Contributor
The River Valley girls basketball team tipped off their home season last Tuesday night, hosting the Belmont Braves. The Blackhawks came into the game having played just once, a season-opening loss at Lancaster. The Lady Braves, on the other hand, won their only contest of the year over Southwestern. Coach Brent Johnson brings three starters back from last season, including senior Emily Esser, and sophomores Brooke Anderson and Charlotte Ferstl. Along with senior Ava Liegel, the returning starters would play key roles in what turned out to be a hard-fought 36-33 loss.
Belmont came out of the gate quickly, scoring the first six points of the game. Charlotte Ferstl got the Blackhawks on the board with two free throws. Shortly after trading baskets from the field, Emily Esser picked up a loose ball and her difficult driving layup closed the gap to 8-6. From that point, midway through the first half, Belmont would go on a 14-5 run as they opened up their largest lead of the night at 22-11. With halftime approaching, RV chipped away at the lead, and Esser’s jumper from the left side of the lane to cut the deficit to seven. If they were going to get back into this game, the Blackhawks would need to get a few more shots to drop and take care of the ball.
The energy at the start of the 2nd half was much better for the Blackhawks, notching points on three of their first four possessions. Capping off the run was a beautiful feed from Lindsey Wallace to Esser, on a back cut to the basket. Her easy layup made the score 22-20 and Valley was right back in the game. A Belmont free throw was offset by Ave Liegel’s three-pointer and we were all knotted up at 23. The Lady Braves grabbed the lead again and held onto it until back to back baskets by Katie Hahn and Brooke Anderson helped RV pull even at 31-31. A nifty reverse layup by Esser gave Valley their first lead of the game with 2:05. Belmont countered with a deuce of their own to tie it up again. A Blackhawk turnover gave the ball back to Belmont, and Mia Hodgson was able to get free for a dagger of a three with 16 seconds remaining. River Valley could not get off a good shot before the buzzer, and the 36-33 loss was a bitter pill to swallow. Having trailed most of the game, the RV girls showed a lot of heart in scratching back into the lead; unfortunately, Belmont made one big shot when they needed it. Here’s Coach Brent Johnson talking about his team’s performance: “Obviously, a tough loss. I thought we got really good, high quality shots but couldn’t finish. The kids battled the whole game; we just came up short. I’m confident the team will learn from this game and get better.”
Emily Esser led the Blackhawks in the scoring column with 12, Charlotte Ferstl had eight, and Brooke Anderson added five points.
The Thursday night game scheduled vs. Platteville was postponed.