The West Hancock girls basketball team nearly pulled off the comeback of the season on Friday night against No. 1 Bishop Garrigan, but couldn't quite dig its way out of an early hole.
After falling behind 37-19 at halftime, the Eagles roared back in the second half, outscoring the Golden Bears 35-25. In the end, the comeback fell eight points short, as West Hancock suffered its first loss of the season, by a score of 62-54.
In the first quarter, everything went wrong for the Eagles. The team struggled to get rebounds as 6-foot-3 Garrigan sophomore Audi Crooks dominated the boards. After a 16-0 run by the Golden Bears, the Eagles trailed at the end of the first, 27-8.
In the second, the Eagles managed to keep pace with the Golden Bears, outscoring them, 11-10, to go into the break trailing by 18 points.
In the third quarter, things finally clicked for the Eagles. West Hancock junior sharpshooter Kennedy Kelly drilled back to back 3-pointers to start the scoring in the second half.
The quarter ended the same way that it began, as Eagles' senior Rachel Leerar drilled a three just before the buzzer, to pull the team within 12 points, at 49-37.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles went on an 8-0 run, capped by back to back baskets from Leerar. But a crucial turnover and subsequent foul led to a basket and a free throw from Golden Bears' senior Kaylyn Meyers, with less than a minute left in the game. Meyers' score put the game just out of reach for West Hancock.
Though the team lost for the first time this season and fell to second place in the Top of Iowa West, head coach Paul Sonius was pleased with the effort and fight that the Eagles' showed.
Friday night was the first time that the Golden Bears won a game by fewer than 20 points, and the team's average margin of victory this season is 47.5.
"We're disappointed we lost and we don't want to lose, but on the same token, I think we showed that we can play with anybody out there," Sonius said.
Leerar finished the night with a team-high 28 points for West Hancock. For Bishop Garrigan, Crooks had 16 points.
The Eagles are now 9-1 on the season. Their next game will come Tuesday, against Lake Mills.
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.