by Craig Beilfuss

HART—Thanks to some clutch free throw shooting Tuesday evening by sophomore Maddie Geers, the second-ranked Kent City Eagles escaped Hart with a come-from-behind 42-39 victory.

The Eagles are ranked in Division 3 in the latest statewide poll.

The sharp-shooting Geers finished with a game-high 29 points, including a pivotal 11 points in the fourth quarter. She made 7-of-10 free throws (12-for-17 for the game)..

Maddie Geers of Kent City hit 12-of-17 free throws on Tuesday evening against Hart (Photo/Leo Valdez)

Kent City’s leading scorer, junior Lexie Bowers was limited to just 11 points. Bowers came into the game averaging more than 17 points per game.

“Lexie had to play a different role tonight,” said first-year Kent City head coach Aleah Holcomb.

Hart got off to a great defensive start by limiting the Eagles to one free throw for the first six minutes. Kent City finally hit a shot from the field with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter. Geers hit two baskets to close out the quarter. Hart led 9-7 after the opening quarter.

Kent City head coach Aleah Holcomb during a timeout on Monday evening (Photo/Leo Valdez)

“We struggled to hit our shots because Hart was aggressive on defense,” said Holcomb.

Good shots were tough to come by in the second quarter. Both teams turned in solid efforts on the defensive end. The Eagles held a 8-6 scoring advantage in the second stanza to knot the score up at 15-15 going into the halftime break. Those point totals were season lows for both teams.

“There are some good athletes on both sides and you saw good defense in the first half,” Hart head coach Travis Rosema said. “We wanted to pressure them on defense and get them off the three point line but eventually Geers was able to take advantage of some match-ups.”

Geers and Bowers accounted for all of the Eagles’ 12 third-quarter points while Hart hit three 3-point baskets and a 2-point field goal. Both teams scored 12 points, which meant heading into the fourth quarter, the showdown was deadlocked at 27-all.

The fourth quarter turned into a free-throw shooting clinic by Geers.

With the score tied at 34-all with 2:22 remaining, Geers went to the free-throw line 10 times and hit crucial free throws.

When Geers did miss a free throw, her teammates were able to corral the rebound and run more time off the clock.

“We work on pressure free throws all the time in practice,” Holcomb said. “We like these tough games and we need to play them because they’ll just make us better for the tournaments coming up.”

“Bowers hit a big three in the fourth quarter and they got some big rebounds off missed free throws which extended the quarter,” Rosema said.

Hart hit two 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter and Addison Hovey scored six points, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Kent City.

Freshman Addison Hovey led Hart with 14 points while junior Mariana VanAgtmael tossed in 10 points.

The Pirates connected on just 6-of-13 from the free throw line and hit a total of seven 3-point shots while only hitting six 2-point shots from the field.

Kent City, which has an 8-0 record in the Central State Activities Association-Silver, will look to clinch the league title outright on Friday when they host Holton.

The Pirates fall to 14-3 overall and remain perfect in the West Michigan Conference with a 12-0 record.

Hart will have another key matchup on Thursday when they travel to Montague in a game that will determine the West Michigan Conference championship.

Hart defeated the Wildcats 37-36 on January 11 in a game played at Hart. Montague trails the Pirates by one game in conference play with a 10-1 record.

“Definitely a big game for us,” said Rosema.

Hart girls head coach Travis Rosema (Photo/Leo Valdez)