BY JOHN DUBOIS
Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils coach Mike Stephens and Oakwood Comets coach Jeff Ford first met 30 years ago when Ford played for Stephens at North Ridge Middle School.
On Monday night, the two faced each other from opposing benches as the fourth-seeded Blue Devils met the fifth-seeded Comets in IHSA Class 2A regional at Westville.
Sparked by a solid defensive effort from Lexi Ballard and led offensively by 10 points each from Addie Voyles and Brooke Walsh the Blue Devils were able to come away with a hard fought 28-24 win in overtime. Ballard is the lone senior for Bismarck-Henning.
“This win really meant a lot to me,’’ Ballard said. “I really didn’t want this to be my last game. We all worked very hard for each other tonight.’’
It was another in a series of close games for the Blue Devils.
“We have been in about seven games like this since the county tournament,’’ Stephens said. “We have been playing defense really well, and Ballard had a couple of breakouts off of steals that were key moments in the second half that turned the momentum for us.
“Voyles and Walsh are two kids who have always been good scorers, who didn’t run and hide tonight after struggling with their shots. That would have been an easy thing to do, but they stepped up for us.’’
It was also a familiar story for the Comets who finish their season at 5-21.
“We have had a lot of games like this during the season,’’ Ford said. “We give a lot of effort, but we struggle against man-to-man defense to get off shots. Lexi Terry has been out for awhile for us and that has caused us to play kids in different roles and to shuffle our line-up around a lot.
“I couldn’t get Sadie Edwards a break at all tonight and I think that was a big factor in the overtime.’’
Delaney Durst led the Comets with a game-high 11 points, with Edwards adding six points.
The Blue Devils got out to a 4-0 lead which was the largest of the game until the final margin.
The Comets would come back to take an 8-5 lead on a three-point play from Abbagale Black, but a buzzer beater from Voyles would cut the lead to 8-7.
Walsh would score the only basket for either team in the second quarter as the Blue Devils took a 9-8 lead into halftime.
Durst would score six consecutive points early in the third to put the Comets back up 14-11, but Voyles would hit a 3-pointer to tie the score 14-14.
The teams would exchange baskets for the rest of the quarter which ended tied 20-20. Both teams would exceed their first half point totals in the quarter.
“We knew we needed to score more,’’ Ballard said. “We got the ball moving more and challenged each other to make a play.’’
“We moved some kids around in the third,’’ Stephens said. “We were getting some good looks at times tonight and were able to convert some in the third.’’
Voyles would hit a baseline jump shot with 30 seconds to go to give the Blue Devils a 24-23 lead, but Edwards would hit 1 of 2 from the foul line to send the game into overtime.
Walsh would score a quick basket, while Voyles and Ballard each made 1-of-2 free throws to close out the scoring. The Blue Devils missed three free throws in overtime but got two offensive rebounds and forced a jump ball to extend their possessions.
“Getting those rebounds in overtime were big plays for us,’’ Ballard said.
It was the final game for Comets seniors Harlena Hardin, Taylor McGlaughlin, and Katey Kirkpatrick.
“This wasn’t the way Harlena wanted to go out, but she has been our leading scorer all season,’’ Ford said. “Taylor does all those little things and has been our vocal leader. Katey didn’t see a lot of minutes but she set a wonderful example for our team in the dedication and effort she showed in practice.
“I learned a lot this year as a first year coach, and I think we will be good to go for next year.’’
The Blue Devils (9-20 overall) will face the top-seeded St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. tonight. The other semifinal will match Georgetown-Ridge Farm against Westville at 7:30 p.m.