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Shooting woes doom Lyons in sectional champ game loss to Whitney Young

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

For Lyons coach Meghan Hutchens, it was like a watching a nightmare end to a dream season.

Hutchens thought back to the 2010-11 men’s college basketball season, when Butler stormed to the NCAA national championship game only to struggle mightily on offensive in a 53-41 loss to Connecticut.

“Nobody wants to go out with their last game like that,” Hutchens said. “I always think about when Butler was so good and they made it all the way to the final game, and then they just couldn’t make a shot.

“That’s like the one thing you never want your athletes to go through and it happened to us.”

All night in the Class 4A Lyons Sectional championship game on Feb. 24, the Lions watched open shots fail to go in the basket. The result was the end of one of the best seasons in program history, as top-seeded Lyons fell 52-33 to third-seeded Whitney Young.

“It was definitely a special season,” said Lions senior forward Izzy Lee. “I think we did everything we wanted to do. It’s a tough way to go out, but I think we put everything we had into it.”

Senior Hailey Markworth had 10 points and six rebounds to lead Lyons (28-4), which fell short in its bid for its first sectional championship since 1998-99. The Lions won their first regional title since 2015-16.

Lee added eight points and 16 rebounds. Elin O’Brien scored six points, Ella Ormsby had five points and six rebounds, and Ally Cesarani scored four points.

Freshman Destiny Jackson was tough to handle for Young (23-5), leading the way with 13 points. Skylar Jones added 12.

Lyons led 14-9 after the first quarter as Lee got going early with six points inside.

The Lions made five of their 17 field-goal attempts in the first quarter. They made just six of 34 the rest of the way.

Young switched to a zone defense and often surrounded Lee with two or three defenders inside after she dominated the first quarter.

“It was definitely frustrating,” Lee said. “I think they knew they couldn’t guard us in man, so they had to switch to zone. They knew if they stayed in man they were going to lose.”

Hutchens thought Lee was also slowed by a wrist injury sustained early in the game.

“Izzy really hurt her herself there in the first half,” Hutchens said. “It was her wrist. She can’t follow through with her right hand. The girl rolled right over her and crushed her wrist into the ground.

“She kept battling and gave it all she had.”

Lyons led 18-11 early in the second quarter but the Dolphins went on a 15-0 run to take command.

The Lions trailed 26-20 at halftime and could just not score enough to stay in it in the second half.

O’Brien’s 3-pointer pulled the hosts within 34-28 with 2:05 left in the third quarter, but Young closed the period with five straight, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Jackson that made it 39-28 and was deflating for Lyons.

The Lions missed 15 3-pointers in the second half, most of them on open looks. They scored only five points in the fourth quarter.

“We were getting the shots we wanted for the people we wanted,” Hutchens said. “If we make one or two of those and it’s closer so we don’t have to overextend ourselves later in the game, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Instead, it was the end for a team that won more games than any Lyons girls basketball team in 23 years.

“The bond that everyone had off the court was special,” Markworth said. “This is one of the closest times I’ve had with a team. It’s hard to have it end, but we’re proud of how we kind of made history.”

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