The difference between third and fourth place can be a subtle one to many.
It wasn’t this weekend to the Madison girls.
The Bulldogs entered the Lyon County League Tournament as the fourth seed and came out of the third place game the 43-38 victors in a battle with Hartford on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s always good to improve from your seed,” Madison head coach Vanessa Kresin said. “We got better. This game was a fun game and it was a huge step. From four to three may not seem like a big deal, but it is.”
The first half indicated a shootout was underway, as the Bulldogs and Jaguars combined for seven trifectas. Though Madison had yet to lead, it had been in close pursuit the entire stretch, never trailing by more than six and closing to within one at the intermission.
“I feel that’s kind of how we’ve (played) after Christmas break,” said senior Emily Farrow. “We let them get in the game in the first half ... then come second half we’re right on them. I never lost faith in us, I knew that we would get them.”
It began on the defensive end, where the Bulldogs began creating more problems for the Jaguars.
“Our game is playing good traps, playing aggressive, anticipating and we challenged (the players) to do just that,” Kresin said of the halftime discussion. “They came out (in) that third quarter (on) a mission and they accomplished it.”
Madison scored the first two buckets in the second half and never gave the lead back. Hartford kept close through most of the third and after the Bulldogs stretched their lead to seven in the fourth, the Jaguars got consecutive baskets to make it a one-possession game heading into the final two minutes.
A turnover brought the ball back into Madison’s hands, where it made enough free throws to remain in front.
Korie Watts and Taylor Williams combined to score 13 of their 23 points in the second half to help boost the Bulldogs to the win.
“(Watts) always plays defense to the best that she can,” Kresin said. “What really helped her was she had zero fouls in the first half. If you know Korie Watts, she never has zero fouls in the first half. That gave her the green light coming out in the second half to give it all she got. Then she did, she played defense really well.”
For Williams, the experience was a memorable one.
“I was over the moon,” she said. “They (smashed) us in the very beginning of league. I think it’s amazing that we could take third place away.”
Williams, along with Farrow, scored 15 as the Bulldogs provided plenty of help for their sole senior.
“It means so much to me,” Farrow said. “I know that coming in my senior year, being the lone senior, I was really nervous (about) having to carry the team. But the girls have done amazing and they put the work in every day at practice.
“It really showed today and I could not be more proud of them.”
As for moving forward, the Bulldogs hope the taste of the LCL Tournament lingers for as long as it can.
“To play with confidence,” Kresin said of the week’s biggest lesson. “When we have confidence, good things happen.”
Madison will return to the court on Tuesday when it hosts Mission Valley. The Hartford girls will also play at home Friday when they face Chase County.
Madison 9 11 11 12 —43
Hartford 14 7 3 14 —38
Madison: Watts 8, E. Farrow 15, Williams 15, Serrer 2, R. Farrow 3.
Hartford: B. Darbyshire 6, Heathman 1, Breshears 12, R. Darbyshire 1, Metcalfe 14, Finnerty 2, Baker 2.