NORTH JUDSON | Never down by more than three points in the first half, Boone Grove couldn't climb out of a second-half hole to hurdle the sectional-drought hump.
At the end of the third quarter, Rochester's Abbie Malchow was taking a last-second half court shot, and was fouled by Paige Aguliera as time expired. Before Malchow made all three of her free throws, Boone Grove led 34-32. The Zebras would go on to a 50-44 victory and hand the Wolves a first-round sectional defeat.
"(Paige) was just trying to get her hand up and unfortunately she got (Abbie)," Boone Grove coach Candy Wilson said. "It didn't change the end of the game, but it was one of several things we had done that snowballed onto ourselves. We played faster than we needed to."
It was the second consecutive season Boone (19-3) had taken a great record into the sectional only to lose the opener.
"It's been a great season, great group of kids," Wilson said. "We've had a lot of high moments this season. This sectional as of late has been our demise. It's a tough sectional, there's really quality teams coming into this. We knew it was going to be a tough road."
Hebron will play Rochester on Friday after Winamac, 59-46 winners over North Judson, will meet North Newton.
The Wolves tied the game at 37 in the fourth quarter off two Emily Bobrowski free throws before the Zebras would take an 8-0 run for the 43-37 lead. Boone Grove cut into Rochester's lead to five at 45-40 with 42 seconds to play after a three-point play by Julie Hogg.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, especially in the first half, we didn't take care of the ball real well. We forced some things when we didn't need to, and we had silly fouls," Wilson said. "Overall, I don't think it was so much (Rochester) as it was ourselves. Things we did that were kind of silly. They played a great game against us, and we had to take better care of the ball than we did."
Rochester took an 18-17 lead into halftime, before both teams traded the lead in the third quarter. Malchow led the Zebras (17-5) with 15 points, and Rylee Holland added 13. The Zebras were 18-of-22 from the free-throw line, 17 of those points coming in the second half.
Brittany Shaffer had 16 points for the Wolves and Hogg added 10.