OSGOOD – After making it to the Ripley County Tournament finals in eight of the previous 10 seasons, Batesville’s Lady Bulldogs started this decade with a return trip to the championship game.

Facing South Ripley’s Lady Raiders in Tuesday’s (Jan. 7) opener at Jac-Cen-Del High School, the Bulldogs extended a late two-possession lead by sinking 10 of 12 free throws in the final three minutes for a 41-29 victory.

“I told the girls there’s nothing we’re going to do game-wise that’s going to look great, but we stayed the course, hit our free throws down the stretch and get to play another game,” said head coach Bryan Helvie.

Batesville earned the bonus about midway through the fourth quarter, allowing the last dozen points to come from the charity stripe.

“It was a struggle and I give South Ripley credit, they were aggressive and kept us from getting good looks,” said Helvie, “but we knew getting into the bonus would be an advantage, and as it turns out, was the difference in the game.”

The Raiders finished the first half on a 7-0 run, which included their only made 3-pointer (Lindsey Meyer). An 18-17 game at the break, there would be only one more tie (at 19) as the Bulldogs’ man defense and occasional press kept SR at bay.

“We do a good job at times playing zone, but we decided to stay with the man-to-man,” the coach said. “South Ripley was much more aggressive on the boards in the first half, so we thought by playing man, we’d be able to block out a little better and get extra chances at rebounds.”

A kickout three by sophomore Ashley Nobbe (junior Katie Brewer assist) and finish by senior Carlie Werner (from junior Catherine Raab) quickly made it a 24-19 game. A basket by LJ McQueen put SR within two headed into the final frame, 25-23.

With 7:19 on the clock, Nobbe missed the second of two free throws; senior Macy Prickel, though, was in position for the rebound and putback to make it 29-23.

“Macy’s not flashy, but she’s kind of around the ball a lot,” Helvie remarked. “It’s not a surprise she leads us in rebounds. And if she gets the ball in the paint, she has a nice touch off the backboard. I actually wish she’d get the ball a little more in the post.”

The Raiders got a Leire Gonzalez score off a steal at 5:16, but wouldn’t convert again until Rachel Meyer’s reverse layup with 36.5 seconds left.

Both teams were cold starting out, until field goals by Werner and freshman Makayla Granger-Young put BHS up 4-1 at the midpoint of the first stanza. A Werner steal and lay-in led to the low score of 7-3 after one complete.

South Ripley tied the game at 7 with hoops by L. Meyer and Cierra Copeland, but Batesville countered with Prickel’s follow-up of a missed three and a Werner make (Nobbe assist).

Two foul shots each from Werner and senior Abigail Westerfeld soon made it 15-9 and Nobbe later deposited a three for an 18-10 advantage.

Nobbe led all scorers with 17 points, including 10 charities in the fourth quarter. Werner scored a dozen and Prickel chipped in 7. Lindsey Meyer led seven Raiders in the scorebook with 7 tallies.

Batesville (5-11) will face host Jac-Cen-Del – 71-37 winners over Milan in the nightcap – Jan. 10, approximately 7:30 p.m., for the title. The ladies lost to the Eagles by four on the road Nov. 29.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” said Helvie. “We’re just really, really happy to be in the finals this year.”

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, ext. 220112