NEW RIEGEL - Both teams brought experience, but when your team has three fewer veterans and only one of your three seniors and three of your five juniors are on that list, there will be growing pains.
New Riegel found a way to soothe that pain Thursday, holding off a more-seasoned Hopewell-Loudon team 44-41 in an early Midland Athletic League matchup between rivals.
"I tend to forget that even though we have experienced kids, we're a young team," New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said.
"Last year, we had a senior veteran point guard who took care of the ball most of the time, and now it's their job," he said, referring to a guard corps led by a veteran sophomore. "They're still learning. We're getting better at it, but we've got a long way to go, and they know that."
That showed in spurts Thursday, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Jackets (4-1, 2-0 MAL) led by 10 in the second quarter, by nine twice in the third and once by 10 again near the midway point of the fourth, but just couldn't push the advantage to put the Chieftains (2-2, 1-1) away.
Three-pointers by Courtney Burns (11 points) and Lauren Trumpler fueled an H-L run to turn a 22-12 deficit into a 25-22 gap by the end of the first half.
New Riegel had leads of 31-22 and 33-24 in the third quarter, but Cassandra Hohman hit a jumper near the end of that period and Aleta Daniel opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to cut New Riegel's lead to 33-29.
New Riegel rallied to extend the advantage to 41-31 on Taylor Arbogast's bucket down low with 4:37 left, but the Blue Jackets never scored from the field again. In fact, they struggled to score at the line.
The Blue Jackets went 3 for 6 at the line from there - part of a 15-of-27 overall showing - and missed their only other field goal try.
Meanwhile, H-L stepped up its defense, with Danielle Rohrbach (14 points, 11 rebounds) turning one turnover into a three-point play and Daniel converting another miscue into a pair of foul shots to cut the deficit to 42-38 with 1:38 to go.
"That's something we've worked on, with the numbers being limited and we're not deep on the bench," H-L coach Rod Daniel said. "I don't want to say we're laid back, but 'keep yourself in the game, give yourself a chance to win,' and the girls really stepped up and they understood ..."
Taylor Kirian's two free throws - just the third time in the game a Blue Jacket made both attempts in one trip to the line - 30 seconds later gave New Riegel a 44-38 lead. But Rohrbach's three-point play at the other end with 47 seconds to go made it a 41-40, and the Chieftains forced a turnover with 21.8 ticks left on the clock.
However, H-L had to burn a timeout after a loose ball scramble with 8.2 seconds to go at midcourt, and New Riegel's Lauren Ladd snared a loose ball down low moments later to secure the win.
"I'm not going to say we got tired, but every time we got around them, just a break didn't go our way. Just a typical day coming over here," coach Daniel said. "I don't know if it's being New Riegel or what it is, but it seems like we always have our moments.
"You get down 10 points to a team like this, you can easily pack your bags and leave, but these girls kept fighting," he said. "We knew coming in it was going to be a dogfight, and sure enough, it was."
Kara Scherger's 20 points topped New Riegel, with Ladd adding 13 points and nine rebounds.
Arbogast chipped in four steals and three assists and Taylor Kirian snared three steals and six boards.