(DHI Media/ Reid Maus)
(DHI Media/ Reid Maus)

MIDDLE POINT — There are, of course, no moral victories in basketball. If there were, though, the Lincolnview girls would’ve had one Thursday night in their 54-46 loss to Bluffton.

The Lady Lancers were winless in the NWC, the Lady Pirates undefeated. Lincolnview was without leading scorer, junior Jordan Decker, out for the year with an ACL tear. Yet the Lancers (3-9, 0-3) were in it until the last minute when the visitors (10-3, 4-0) cashed in 5 of 6 free throws to sew up the win.

Bluffton appeared to have it well in hand leading 45-35 with 4:38 left in the game, but the Lancers suddenly found the long ball for the first time. Senior Adia Welch hit one at 3:25, and sophomore Brianna Ebel connected from long range at 2:58 and again at 2:08 to get the home team within 49-46. Lincolnview was then forced to foul, and the Pirates were up to the task, hitting five straight free throws in the last minute to wrap up the win.

“We hung right with them until the end when we had to foul,” said Lincolnview coach Dan Williamson. “I’m just extremely proud of our girls, the effort they showed tonight. We’ve been having a rough stretch the last eight or nine games, but they came out tonight and did what we asked them to do. They played with effort and intensity, and they got after it.”

The first half was a dandy with six ties and eight lead changes before Bluffton took a 24-23 lead at the break. The stats at that point were virtually even. Both teams hit 10 of 23 (44 percent) of their field goal tries, and each team had only one 3-pointer. Neither team missed a free throw, but the Pirates hit three of them, the Lancers two. Bluffton had a big rebounding edge, 15-7, but also had more turnovers, 12-8. Bluffton’s senior sharpshooter, Alivia Koenig, already had 13 points. Welch had nine for Lincolnview.

Lincolnview’s senior point guard, Lakin Brant, started the third quarter with a layup on an Ebel assist to give the Lancers their last lead at 25-24. Bluffton, however, then got hot from behind the arc. Koenig hit nothing but net on three third-period triples, and senior Katie Prater hit one. The Pirates’ lead got as big as seven at 38-31 on a Koenig three at 0:41, but a Lancer layup by junior Sierra Adams cut the lead to 38-33 after three.

The two teams not only shot identical field goal percentages in the first half but did so again in the second half, ending up at 46 percent for the game as a whole on 20 of 44. Their percentages from long range were nearly even — Lancers at 27 percent (4 of 15), Pirates at 28 percent (5 for 18). Bluffton had a big edge at the line — 9 of 11 (82 percent) to the Lancers’ 2 for 2. The visitors won the boards 25-15, but Lincolnview had fewer turnovers, 15-17.

Koenig was magnificent with 27 points, and her support came from senior Averey Rumer, Prater, and junior Libby Schaadt with 12, 7, and 6. Lincolnview’s leaders were Welch, Ebel, Adams, Brant, and sophomore sub Annie Mendenhall with 14, 10, 6, 6, and 6.

“Jordan Decker was our leading scorer (for the season),” said Williamson. “She was averaging 11 or 12 a game, but now I think the girls have realized that everybody has to pick up the slack. Brianna Ebel has played really well the last two games offensively, so hopefully she can continue, and Adia (Welch) shot the ball really well. Everybody contributed a little bit offensively tonight.”

Bluffton (54)

Kayla White 0, Katie Prater 7, Averey Rumer 12, Alivia Koenig 27, Libby Schaadt 6, Brinkley Garmatter 0, Laykin Garmatter 0, Ashley Eachus 2, Kylie Monday 0.

Lincolnview (46)

Brianna Ebel 10, Lana Carey 2, Adia Welch 14, Sierra Adams 6, Lakin Brant 6, Kendall Bollenbacher 0, Sami Sellers 2, Annie Mendenhall 6.

Bluffton 13 11 14 16 - 54

Lincolnview 15 8 10 13 - 46

3-point shooting: B 5/18 (Koenig 4, Prater), LV 4/15 (Ebel 2, Welch 2). Rebounds: B 25, LV 15. Fouls: B 7, LV 15. Turnovers: B 17, LV 15. Jayvee score: B 20-16 (two quarters).