For most Lion players, the tears commenced as time expired and it continued to flow as they streamed out of the locker room one by one after the coach spoke.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the girls basketball team.
The third-seeded Lions appeared to be in control of the Div. 1 South Sectional semi-final game after tallying a 19-point advantage at halftime. But Newton South could only muster four third-quarter points in what turned out to be an abysmal offensive half leading to a 47-45 loss to No. 2 Mansfield.
“I could have made a few adjustments,” said Lions head coach Sam Doner. “I’m sure when I get home I won’t sleep tonight and think about what I could have done differently. One possession, two possessions, would have made a huge difference.”
Unlike the latter half, the Lions were firing on all cylinders to begin the game as Sophie Bikofsky and Kayla Burton drained three-pointers giving Newton South the 6-2 lead.
The Hornets cut the deficit to 10-8 before the Lions responded with a 6-0 run to end the first period. That surge was capped off by a Kendall Burton three-point play. Burton finished with a team-high 11 points and six rebounds.
In the second quarter, Newton South controlled both ends of the court outscoring Mansfield 16-5. During that stretch, Kendall Burton scored back-to-back layups, the first resulting from a Hornet turnover.
But the well-oiled offensive machine derailed in the third quarter leaving the Lions stranded. Newton South’s shots would not fall, although Kendall Burton nailed a jumper as the period closed helping the Lions maintain the 36-27 advantage.
Newton South's scoring woes continued in the fourth period as the Lions would not tally a point until the 1:50 mark. That allowed Mansfield to take its first lead of the night when Michaela Bowes hit back-to-back three-pointers making the score 37-36.
Mansfield persisted leading, but the Lions attempted to rally back as the game drew to an end.
Chloe Rothman drained a three-pointer with 21 seconds remaining cutting the deficit to 46-43. The Lions then fouled Kathryn Campbell sending her to the line. She missed the free throw and Kendall Burton grabbed the rebound. But the referee said her foot was on the line, turning the possession back to the Hornets, and effectively ending the Lions season.
“Mansfield matched up man-to-man with us,” said Doner. “I didn’t think they could match up with us. But they made the right adjustments and for some reason we didn’t execute. And again, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The coach added that the Lions should be proud of their accomplishments.
“Keep their heads up,” Doner told his girls. “Phenomenal season, 21-2. They did not lose the game. We lost it as a coaching staff.”
Check out our photo gallery from last night's game in the photos section above!