DAVID CITY — Lincoln Christian coach Nick Orduna acknowledges he may have to come up with a new name for his girls basketball team, which features no seniors.
Class C-1 No. 6 Christian rallied from down 12 points early in the third quarter to scratch out a 45-43 win against No. 5 Aquinas on Saturday afternoon at Aquinas High School.
Sophomore Makylee Ailes hit four three-pointers and finished with 14 points while junior Olivia Hollenbeck made her presence known in the post, finishing with 15 points, including some crucial free throws late.
“I’ve been calling them pups all year,” Orduna said. "'Got to be patient with the pups,' is what I’ve been saying. Here we are in the last week of the regular season and we’re starting to see them grow up.”
Christian’s win came against an Aquinas team that has 10 seniors, and it was another growth spurt for a team that has found itself in several down-to-the-wire games this season.
“We’ve been on the other side where we’ve lost by two or three to some really good teams after playing well, but this is the fruit of battling in those games,” Orduna said. “The girls just had a calmness and confidence about them at the end of this game. We were able to do what needed to be done to win against a very good Aquinas team.”
Christian (12-8), up 45-43, missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Aquinas life with 11 seconds left, but Aquinas’ attempt at the buzzer was short.
Ignited by a pair of threes from senior Valerie Bohuslavsky, the Monarchs (15-4) closed the first half on a 10-0 run and took a 31-19 lead out of the break on a three from junior Macey Thege.
But Christian got back in it quickly. Hollenbeck, who sat out most of the second quarter because of two fouls, started working inside, drawing fouls and hitting several free throws. She was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
“I think being able to have Hollenbeck on the floor, and just the presence inside,” Aquinas coach Tony Smith said of the difference in the second half. “We always have to keep an eye out where she’s at out of our 1-3-1 zone, which is what we prefer to play. We can play man, and went to it maybe just a tad late.”
Christian picked up the intensity of its man defense in the second half, holding Aquinas to 4-of-18 shooting over the final two quarters.
Junior Macy Arnold added six points and 10 rebounds for the Crusaders, who bounced back from back-to-back losses to Class C-2 No. 1 Hastings St. Cecilia and C-1 No. 2 Bishop Neumann. Of the Crusaders past 14 games, 12 have come against teams currently ranked.
“Some of our juniors are starting to step up and understanding the importance of a leadership role, so it’s been so cool as a coach to watch the maturity and the improvement throughout the season,” Orduna said. “We’re a dangerous team as we head into our last week of regular season, so I’m excited to see how it finishes.”
Senior Breanna Stouffer led Aquinas with 15 points, and Bohuslavsky added 10. The Monarchs finish the regular season against Class D-2 No. 1 Humphrey St. Francis and Class C-2 No. 7 Centennial.
“We know that we have our hands full,” Smith said. “We could win two, we could lose. I think we play well that we can win two, so the message was that. Bounce back, keep doing what we do, and we’re going to be there.”