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By: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

Make history. The team chose that motto at the beginning of the year. 

On Mar. 11 the Chelsea Bulldogs Girls basketball team (23-1) defeated the River Rouge Panthers (13-8), 38-33 putting themselves in the regional championship game on Mar. 13 against Carleton Airport (23-1), that much closer to making history. 

Survive and advance is the name of the game come March and the Bulldogs used their depth to overcome a pesky Panthers team with only six players. After a back and forth battle all night, fouls affected the Panthers down the stretch. 

Both teams came out in a zone defense, the Panthers in a 1-3-1 and the Bulldogs a 2-3. After trading baskets over the first half of the first quarter the Bulldogs led 7-5 after an offensive rebound and put back from Bulldog senior forward Riley Davis. 

Panther junior Curtisey Williams had a buzzer-beating lay-up to cut the Bulldog lead to 11-8 after one. She and junior guard Lamariyee Williams led the Panthers with 12 points each. 

In the second quarter, the Bulldog offense stalled as the Panthers began to hit their shots on the offensive end as they outscored the Bulldogs 14-9 to take a 22-20 halftime lead. 

The Panthers had a 7-2 run to start the quarter to take a 15-13 lead two minutes into the second. L. Williams began to take over, scoring six of the Panthers 14 points, she did, however, pick up her third foul with 1:25 on a charge. 

“Our coaches were telling me in game preparation, ‘just double, we need to double,’” said Bulldog head coach Todd Blomquist. “I wasn’t super comfortable with that until we had to and once we did, it was effective, really effective. I give my staff credit for that.”

Two late buckets from senior forward Madeleine Kennedy tied the game at 20 but L. Williams drove down the lane and found Panther junior guard DaTorri Hall for a corner three to make it 22-20 heading into halftime.

“I thought we were a bit hurried,” said Blomquist on the scoring drought. “Not catching square or getting our eyes on the rim. Not making that zone move, we had too much stuff on the front side of the zone. We weren’t making it move. Then we weren’t getting touches inside. We were out of sorts. Give River Rouge credit, though, that’s what they do.”

At halftime, the adjustments focused on making L. Williams uncomfortable. 

“We started to play full court,” said Blomquist on the game plan coming out of the locker room. “Throwing two people at her, doubling her, making her work. Then once we got to the fourth quarter knew we just had to send people at her.” 

The third quarter started out with turnovers for both sides as buckets were hard to come by. For the Panthers, L. Williams had five of the six Panther points as she and C. Williams also combined for five offensive rebounds. 

Bulldog senior guard Helena Schultz provided a spark off the bench, getting to the line twice and going 3-4 while grabbing an offensive rebound. Her third free throw tied the game at 25 with 3:26.

Then the halftime adjustment of doubling the ball handler helped changed the momentum. 

Bulldog senior Riley Davis and sophomore Jess Emmert pressured the ball on an inbounds play with 10 seconds left and forced a turnover. Emmert got the ball on the baseline and found the other sophomore on the team, Emily McCalla, under the hoop. She drew a foul with 1 second left and hit both free throws to cut the Panther lead to 28-27. 

“That was big and then Jess came in and took those charges. Huge,” said Blomquist.

L. Williams had seen success all night on the boards and getting to the lane. She also picked up some offensive fouls on the way and little over a minute in the fourth quarter she fouled out on a charge. Hall also sustained an ankle injury 30 seconds into the quarter that affected her for the rest of the contest.

Bulldog senior Abby Fullerton hit a big corner three, with all nine of her points coming from behind the arc, with around 5:30 left to give the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead. 

After Kennedy went 1-2 from the line to give the Bulldogs a 31-30 lead with 4:30 left, Hall answered with a three-pointer to put the Panthers back up 33-31.

Then, it was a Schultz free throw followed by a Fullerton steal that led to an and one for Schultz to put the Bulldogs up 35-33.

Schultz led the team with 10 points, Davis added eight, Fullerton had nine, senior forward Maddie Vasquez had two points, Kennedy had five points, McCalla had two points, and senior point guard Briana Hay had twp points.

The Panthers allowed the Bulldogs to run 40 seconds off the clock before fouling, and at that point, the Panthers had run out of players. They played the last 40 seconds with four, then three players on the court as they had another player foul out. 

The Bulldogs would go 6-11 as a team from the line in the fourth and it was just enough to come out with the 38-33 victory. 

Offense has been hard to come by as of late for the Bulldogs, but Blomquist told The Sun Times he reminded his team of what goals they set. 

“We’re in the regional finals,” said Blomquist. “We just gotta have confidence and ball out. We’ve been talking all year long about making history. Well, we’ve never won a regional title here it is, it’s right in front of us what are we gonna do?” 

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