TROY — It’s a tough pill to swallow when any season ends.
Legacy Christian found some solace that they didn’t fail to reach their expectations.
Russia in Saturday’s Division IV District Final had experience and height on their side as they defeated the Knights 57-32 at Troy High School.
With only one senior on its roster, LCA had an uphill climb facing a motivated Raiders team which had lost in consecutive district title appearances the last two seasons. The Knights have been a regular fixture of this point in the tournament recently too, but weren’t sure about it continuing this year.
“We did not expect to come this far,” senior Caroline Kensinger said. “It was still really exciting. I think we were thought we would be more break even, so it’s still a really good season.”
Legacy Christian won its sixth straight Metro Buckeye Conference championship this season and finished 19-5 after an 11-0 start.
Natalie Strickle led the Knights with 11 points against Russia, while Alli Graves scored nine. Alayna Allport added six and both Audrey Stanley and Kensinger had three.
LCA was perfect from outside the arc in the first half, making all four of its three-point attempts, but struggled to find room inside. The Knights were only 2-for-11 from two and made two of its five free throw attempts while committing eight turnovers.
Russia used an 8-1 run late in the first quarter to break open a tight score and got up by as much as nine early in the second. LCA’s zone and height disadvantage struggled to keep the Raiders off the boards throughout the game.
The Knights used the long ball to pull back within four near halftime before Russia connected on one of their own from the corner in the final second to have a 25-18 halftime lead.
“We thought we could do this,” Kensinger said. “It was just trying to keep up the momentum, but it’s really hard because you’re going so hard and then you kind of hit a wall.”
The late basket got Russia going on offense in the second half as they began to gradually pull away from LCA. It remained a 10-point margin midway through the third until a four-minute scoreless drought to end the period by the Knights helped push Russia ahead by 21.
“We were a lot smaller than they are, but I think especially at the beginning of the game we came out playing hard that’s all that really matters. We gave it our best shot.”
Kensinger said being the team’s only senior meant needing to shoulder a leadership role, one which she appeared to gained support of from her teammates as the season played out.
“I loved fighting alongside them,” she said. “I’ve been on some really good teams, but now getting to help lead them on and guide was kind of exciting and I’m excited to see what they can do.”
The Knights have a solid core returning next season, with its five leading scorers all able to play, to try and make another run when experience could then be on their side.
Winning helps expose players to finals-type situations and Legacy Christian gained more than it originally considered would happen.