HOWARD — The East Knox girls basketball team held a 38-37 lead with 18.2 ticks left on the clock, but the visiting West Jefferson Roughriders had the last bucket to secure a 39-38 win Tuesday over the Bulldogs, ending East Knox’s season.

The Riders took a 37-31 lead with 3:30 to go to in the fourth, but the Bulldogs kept fighting back. Meggan Bartok hit a three and Taylor Nunamaker had a steal and was fouled, where she hit a freebie to cut the lead to 37-36 with 1:16 to go. Ashley VanHoose came up with a steal on the inbound pass and Bartok had a feed to Nunamaker for a bucket to give the home team a 38-37 lead with 18.2 seconds to go.

“The kids had to believe in themselves and they had to believe in that man defense,” East Knox coach Chip Pozderac said of the late rally. “They kind of believed in themselves, picked up the defense, got a little more aggressive with it.”

West Jefferson went the length of the floor and a shot by Taylor Roberts gave the Riders a 39-38 lead with 10.2 left on the clock, but the Bulldogs were unable to get off a shot in the waning seconds.

In contrast to the late-game flurry, there was a slow start to the contest. Nearly four minutes went off the clock before the first bucket and the Bulldogs held a 6-2 lead after the first frame.

“Trying to feel each other out and see what’s going on,” Pozderac said of the slow start. “I wanted to see what exactly they were going to run offensively and where they were going to go with that.”

After eight total points in the first, both teams more than doubled that in the second quarter. For the Bulldogs, Morgan McCauley splashed home a pair of treys and Nunamaker kicked in a 3-pointer of her own. Bartok and Sydney Buckingham each had four points in the quarter. Gabbie King had a huge impact on the opposite end of the floor, racking up 13 points in the second to go along with four from Roberts. East Knox held on to a 23-19 lead at the break.

The Riders flipped the script in the third quarter. After they got all but five of their first-half points from inside the arc, they nailed three quick shots from deep, with the third coming on a three from Megan McClish to give West Jefferson its first lead, 28-27, with six minutes to go in the third. Despite another four points from Buckingham, East Knox was outscored 15-8 in the third, due in large part to eight points from Carlie Powell. The Bulldogs trailed 34-31 heading into the fourth.

“We shot the ball, we just didn’t rebound the ball,” Pozderac said of the third quarter. “If you don’t follow (your shot), that’s it and they get the rebound.”

Another slow start to the quarter provided only three Roberts points to push the lead to six, before East Knox’s comeback attempt that was foiled.

“Tonight just wasn’t our night,” Pozderac said.

Roberts notched a double-double on the night, packing her stat line with 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. King had all 13 of her points in the second and Powell racked up her eight in the third. McClish finished with three points and three boards. King and Brooke Roberts each hauled in five rebounds.

Nunamaker scored in every quarter for the Bulldogs to finish with 11 points, a board, two assists and a steal. Bartok was just shy of double figures, accounting for nine points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Buckingham and McCauley each accounted for eight points and Alexandria Magers kicked in a bucket. Magers led the way on the glass with seven boards.

The loss ended the Bulldogs’ season at 13-10. West Jefferson advanced in the sectional tournament to take on Johnstown Saturday at 1 p.m.

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Erick Starkey: 740-397-5333 or erick@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mvnstarkey