MICHIGAN CITY — Any success that Michigan City has in girls basketball will hinge heavily on the fortunes of Trinity Thompson and fellow junior Katelyn Halfacre.
While Halfacre never left the floor in Wednesday's season opener with Hobart, the Wolves weren't able to keep their 6-foot Division I prospect on the court with her, and they struggled mightily as she sat.
Trailing 38-29 after a 7-0 Hobart run to start the fourth quarter, City sent Thompson and her four fouls back to the floor, and she fueled a frenzied comeback that saw the Wolves claw within a point three times before falling 51-49.
"She hit free throws and was just a presence on the court," coach Mike Megyese said. "We battled back and took the lead, then all of a sudden, she has four and we're right back where we were, struggling to find our offense."
City actually had the ball with a chance to take the lead at the minute mark, but Grace Nestich pilfered a Thompson pass at midcourt for a crucial layup. After Thompson answered, Asia Donald made two free throws for Hobart. Thompson split a pair at the line before Hobart's Lexi Williams made two more and the last of many Wolves turnovers sealed the outcome.
"If we could've just gotten the lead," Megyese said. "We made a run at them and they made shots they haven't made the last two years. Give Hobart credit. They made their free throws."
Thompson sat an extended portion of the first half after picking up two early fouls, then went to the bench midway through the third after being ticketed for two more.
To no surprise, an inexperienced and thin Michigan City lineup labored with her on the bench, falling behind by as many as five in the first half, then again in the third quarter after she exited again.
"We struggled offensively," Megyese said. "We're a work in progress."
When Thompson returned to the floor in the second quarter, she and Halfacre fueled an 8-2 run to end the second quarter that bumped the hosts to a 23-22 edge at the break. Halfacre carried the early scoring load with 11 points in the first half, while Jaden Smallwood provided plenty of scrap with three steals and five rebounds.
"We felt good at halftime," Megyese said. "I was proud of the way the kids battled back in the ball game to take the lead."
Lots of turnovers and stammering offenses are typical of season openers, and the tipoff game was certainnly no exception as the Wolves and Brickies both labored heavily in trying to get their offenses on track. A turnover-plagued first half saw the teams cough the ball up a combined 26 times, a number that soared to 43 through three quarters.
Thompson struggled to find her rhythm, failing to make a basket while splitting eight foul shots in the first half
"She was pressing," Megeyse said.
That didn't affect Thompson on defense though as she made four steals before her third-quarter departure. She hit a turnaround in the lane at 5:16 of the third quarter for her first field goal.
Hobart took a 31-29 lead to the fourth quarter on the strength of three 3s in the third eight minutes and when Donald banged her third triple to push the Brickies' lead to 38-29, Thompson returned with 5:34 left.
"With that much time, we didn't need to panic," Megyese said. "(The lead) was six, I was trying to get a timeout and they hit a 3 to take it to nine. I thought that was a huge momentum swing."
Thompson finished with 17 points, 13 of them on free throws, to go with 15 rebounds and seven steals. Halfacre led all scorers with 20. Arianna Lemons nabbed nine rebounds and Smallwood snagged four steals.
"We barely knew who our team was three days ago. We're still trying to figure out who we are, Megyese said. "I thought Katelyn played a nice ball game. Arianna, for her first game, did some nice things. They all fought hard. Hobart just made a few more plays. We'll get better."
Hobart hit seven 3s to overcome 25 turnovers, while City had 27.
Hobart 51, Michigan City 49
Trinity Thompson had 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven steals in the loss.