ROSE HILL — Just about everyone for Circle's girls basketball team shot well in the first half against Rose Hill, except leading scorer Kyrstie Ehm.
So when Ehm made her first two shots after halftime to extend Circle's lead, it appeared the Thunderbirds could have an easy night.
It didn't turn out that way. Rose Hill rallied and had a chance to win late, but Whitney Bates' three-point shot at the buzzer allowed Circle to escape with a 44-43 win.
"I don't think at any point I thought it was going to be easier," Circle coach Brian Henry said. "They're a top team statewide. They've got lots of talent and experience, so I knew they were going to find a way to get back into it."
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Ehm scored seven points in the third quarter after missing all seven of her shots in the first half. Her basket with 3:56 to go in the third gave Circle a 33-23 lead.
But the Thunderbirds didn't score again until nearly five minutes later. They committed six turnovers and six fouls in the third, each one more than their first-half total.
Rose Hill took advantage by getting mid-range offense from guards Bailey Burnett, Whitney Bates and Kelsey Webber, who scored 13 of Rose Hill's fourth-quarter points.
"We fought back," Rose Hill coach Jenny Page said. "We started out flat and I don't think we ever really stepped up and played the way we wanted to play."
The Rockets didn't stick to driving to the basket. They missed 16 of 18 three-point attempts — Bates and Webber were 0 for 13 — but often settled for the perimeter shot.
Rose Hill would have been in the free-throw bonus by drawing one foul in the fourth, but Circle's only foul in the quarter was a charge, which doesn't come with a free throw.
The Rockets also struggled to get the ball to center Randi Lucas, who scored eight points but didn't have multiple baskets in any quarter. She was defended well by Hanna Flaming and Taci Richard.
"We didn't shoot well and we had four people score," Page said. "We're not going to win many games doing that. To their credit, they made it difficult to get many open shots."
Circle never lost the lead in the second half but it was tied late 39-39 and 41-41. A Thunderbirds turnover gave the ball back to Rose Hill with 5.5 seconds, and Bates shot from the right wing bounced off the rim after she drove the sideline.
"We just were hoping that we could continue to play as good of team defense as we did throughout and withstand their runs," Henry said. "We did a good job ... we played enough team defense to get it going."
Circle (5-1, 2-1) 12 12 9 11 — 44 Rose Hill (5-2, 3-1) 12 7 9 15 — 43
CIRCLE: Flaming 10, Ehm 12, Burden 6, Barrett 2, Couey 9, Richard 5. Totals 17 (1) 9-12 44.
ROSE HILL: Burnett 12, Bates 13, Webber 10, Lucas 8. Totals 19 (2) 3-3 43.