SHELBYVILLE - The University Trailblazers, playing in their first regional game in six years, came up short against the experienced Jac-Cen-Del Eagles on Saturday afternoon.

After trailing by 14 after three quarters, the Trailblazers rallied in the fourth, cutting the deficit to five before eventually falling, 66-57, to No. 4 Jac-Cen-Del (21-3) in the semi-final round of Class A Regional 15 at Southwestern High School.

This step in the tournament was a new one for every player on a University roster that includes only one senior, guard Natalie Nickless. The Trailblazers last progressed to this stage in 2012.

For Jac-Cen-Del players, a trip to the regional round is basically a birthright at this point. The Eagles have advanced to regionals in each of the past 10 years, won three straight regional titles from 2014-16 and captured the 2016 state championship.

"We were prepared," University head coach Justin Blanding said. "What I tried to explain to our kids is that the difference between us and them is experience. They've been here many, many times. They're a veteran team.”

The Eagles had to lean on this experience down the stretch. After controlling the game for three quarters, Jac-Cen-Del was forced to fend off a furious fourth-quarter push from the Trailblazers.

The University charge was led by junior forward Lucy Snyder who nailed a 3-pointer at the 5:50 mark of the fourth quarter that sparked a 10-1 run over the next two minutes.

Snyder scored eight points during this run including the final three when she turned a steal into a fast-break basket at the other end. Snyder converted the layup while getting poked in the eye by an Eagle defender. She then completed the three-point play with a made free throw, cutting the Jac-Cen-Del lead to five, 57-52.

The run whipped the University crowd into a frenzy forcing Jac-Cen-Del coach Scott Smith into a timeout at the 3:50 mark.

Unfortunately for University, the Eagles regained control and outscored the Trailblazers 9-5 in the closing minutes with seven points coming from the free throw line.

In a losing effort, Snyder was brilliant in the second half, scoring 19 of her game-high 21 points after halftime.

Jac-Cen-Del defenders focused their attention on University's leading scorer Lindsey Syrek (18.8 points per game); often dropping a guard to deny entry passes to the post.

This defensive strategy opened up clean shooting looks for Snyder who averaged only 4.7 points per game during the season.

Snyder's second-half offensive explosion did not surprise her head coach.
"She's definitely capable of doing that," Blanding said. "We just have to make sure that we tell her and her sister (Lily Snyder) to be aggressive. Teams kind of leave them out there and don't think that they're capable, but they're more than capable.”

Despite the steady stream of double and sometimes triple teams, Syrek still managed to tally 15 points. University guard Brooke Andrus also scored in double digits with 10.
Senior guard Lilly Simon led the way for the Eagles with 20 points, including 16 in the second half.

The loss for University (17-8) ends a successful season that produced a sectional title, but the future looks bright for a group that graduates only one senior.

"The program's back in a good space," Blanding said. "We've got a lot of experience coming back next year, and hopefully we can be fortunate enough to get back here."