Down by nine points late in the game, the Staples girls basketball team stormed all the way back with an 11-0 run for the lead. Unfortunately for the Lady Wreckers, they couldn't stop host Hall from pulling away and avoiding an upset.

The Class LL State Tournament's No. 28 seed, Staples gave fifth-seeded Hall a scare before falling 56-42 in the tournament's first round on Tuesday night.

Hall, aided by three Lady Wreckers fouling out in the waning minutes, scored the last 16 points of the game to put it away and end a challenging but rewarding season for the Wreckers who overcame adjustments to revamped roster which was battered by injuries before and during the campaign.

The Lady Wreckers were led in scoring by a sophomore tandem as Nikki Bukovsky and Erica Stein dropped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Senior captain Nikki Brill, playing on a tender ankle, put together her usual strong all-around performance -- logging nine points to go along with 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals.

"It was an intense game. The score was no indicator of what kind of game it was," Staples Coach Ed Huydic said. "It was a very tough way to go out after a very intense effort."

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The Lady Wreckers have had their share of hard-fought losses. In addition to getting eight wins to qualify for the state playoffs, Staples found itself on the short end of five games decided by six points or less. The Lady Wreckers may not have had as many wins as some of the top teams, but they were competitive against some of the best.

"The game was a mirror image of many games we had this year against tough, quality opponents," Huydic said of the state tourney clash.

In addition to being competitive, "The game was marred by many, many fouls and many, many turnovers on both sides," the coach added.

Despite the outcome, the Lady Wreckers had plenty to be pleased with. "Even though we lost I was very proud of the way everybody played," said Brill.

"We just had to go out there and give it our all, and we did," fellow senior captain MK Van Sant said. "We showed how good a team we actually can be."

The finish was wild as Staples climbed back from a big deficit for the third time in the game and had upset on its minds. "It was the most excited I've seen this team in a long time," senior captain Julie Strickland said. "The last few minutes were a little heart-breaking."

Strickland was one of two seniors who did not play because of injury. She was sidelined about a month before the season but remained with the team to provide encouragement in games and practices, Huydic said.

As tough as it was to sit out, Strickland appreciated her time with her teammates in 2010-11. "It was definitely the most enjoyable season I've had in terms of the girls and personalities," Strickland said.

"Looking back on the season I really have no regrets," Brill said. "We had such great chemistry on and off the court. We had a really great group this year."

Brill and Van Sant were the only active seniors throughout the season. In addition to injuries, graduation and players deciding not to come back left the Lady Wreckers retooling with 11 of 15 players from a year ago no longer in the picture.

"A lot of younger players had to step up and join the roster," said Julia Friedman, another senior captain who was injured but also helped out with the up-and-coming players throughout the season. "In order for us to get the eight wins we needed to make the playoffs we needed to create an atmosphere in our gym with positive energy."

Friedman noted that junior Jessica Coelho and Bukovsky played key roles in the comeback effort in the state playoff game. She pointed out that Bukovsky came off the bench to contribute some key late-game baskets to spark Staples' comeback. Coelho, the team's center, had been out of the lineup with an injury but returned recently and started in the game against Hall, which proved to be beneficial, Friedman said. She added that other players had to play out of position in her absence.

Huydic said he wasn't surprised that his team, despite all of the changes, made the playoffs, but recognized that the Wreckers may have surprised the competition. "While it wasn't a surprise, it was something that opened our opponents' eyes," he said, adding that the seniors will be greatly missed.

"It was a great group of girls. It was a group that had great chemistry on and off the court. They worked hard, they played hard. We had our moments," Huydic said. "I told them at the end of the game `It was an honor and a pleasure to coach this particular group.'"

"We had a good time together," Van Sant said.

"We're like a family -- it's really hard to say goodbye to that," Friedman added.

"They'll be missed for what they brought to the table," said Huydic, going on to explain that the seniors brought a strong work ethic and good attitude to the team. "It's a wonderful collection of kids who all brought something to the program this year -- as well as in the past. This group of four seniors will definitely be missed for a variety of reasons."