Freshman connects in waning seconds to give Lady ‘Cats one-point win
On the night after Houston Rockets forward Tracy McGrady scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds against the San Antonio Spurs, including a three pointer with two seconds left on the clock to win the game, the Basehor-Linwood High School Lady Bobcats defeated Mill Valley similarly, in a game lacking anything but drama.
The win came without senior forward Morgan Kenney, whose grandmother recently past away. Emotions were running high in the locker room before the game, and the team decided to dedicate their play to Morgan.
"Morgan is a real leader on this team," BLHS coach Mardy Robinson said. "She has a level head and keeps this team calm"
Kenney was replaced by freshman Cassie Lombardino, who earned her first start of the season.
"I didn't feel like I had earned it because that's Morgan's spot, she's a senior," Lombardino said. "I just wanted to help the team."
With the 6-foot-1 Lombardino starting, the Lady Bobcats went to the lob pass early in the first quarter. Accompanied by a Michelle Chrisman three pointer the Lady Bobcats found themselves up by a point at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Bobcats have added four freshman, who all see playing time this season, and have had trouble finding chemistry with each other. But despite the Lady Bobcats inability to pull away, they really had it going, playing better together this night than they have all season.
"The girls are starting to get used to each other," Robinson said. "Once we put it all together, we're going to be even better than we were tonight."
In spite of the Lady Bobcats synchronization, their biggest weakness was exposed, as the Lady Jaguars outrebounded the Bobcats by leaps and bounds.
"We know we need to start boxing out better, and it's something we're really working on," senior Sammy Paterson said.
Although Mill Valley's players weren't draining their jumpers, they continued to get easy points off of put-backs. The Lady Bobcats were never able to hold onto a lead, and found themselves trailing at the half by one, 19-18.
"Boxing out has a lot to do with heart," Robinson said. "We're letting opposing players dictate where we end up, and we can't do that."
But the Lady Bobcats weren't lacking any heart in this game. In fact, it was heart that may have saved them.
Mill Valley came out of the locker room for the second half on a mission to take over the game, going on a quick 6-0 run.
The team needed a spark from someone, and it came from Shae Sawalich. In the period of time Sawalich was in the game, she dove on the floor twice causing a steal, and scored a quick bucket, that ignited the Lady Bobcat comeback.
"When they went on their run I put what I call my defensive unit in the game and Shae is my best defensive player," Robinson said. "Coach Hopkins and I talked about getting her in the game because she can really lift this team up on defense, and that's exactly what she did. If she hadn't hit that bucket we might not have won the game."
Led by Sawalich's intensity the Lady Bobcats went on a 13-4 run to end the third quarter, scoring 18, which equaled their output for the first two quarters combined.
The Lady Bobcats found themselves up 36-29 to start the fourth quarter, but that would soon change. Mill Valley took advantage of a relaxed BLHS squad, and went on a 9-1 run to take the lead by two.
"We let them have some easy buckets," Robinson said. "We gambled at times we shouldn't have and it cost us the lead."
After the two teams matched each other with defensive stops it was time for the real excitement to begin. After a time out by Robinson, Mill Valley's run was halted by a huge three pointer by freshman Brooke Sanders, giving the Lady Bobcats the lead once again.
But the Lady Jaguars just wouldn't go away. After Breanna Beebe capped off a three point play with a made free throw, the Lady Jaguars came right back down the floor and scored a quick bucket to make it 43-42, with two minutes remaining.
Then, perhaps more important than the three points she had just contributed, Beebe fouled out after a Mill Valley steal and sent Lady Jags freshman Maggie Barnett to the line. Barnett missed both free throws, leaving the Lady Bobcats only to run out the clock, and ensure victory.
As time was winding down the Lady Bobcats could almost taste victory, but a simple mistake almost cost them the game. An errant pass that sailed out of bounds gave the ball back to the Lady Jaguars with less than 10 seconds to play.
The Jags only needed a two but got one better, as Mill Valley's Stanisha Garlington drained a three with six seconds left on the clock.
Down two, six seconds left, most coaches would put the ball in the hands of one of their most veteran players. But with the talented freshman class dominating the scoreboard, the ball fell into the hands of exactly the right player.
Needing only two to tie, Sanders drove the length of the court, and, with two defenders in her face, drained a long-range three with just two ticks on the clock.
"I just wanted to win so bad, and I feel really comfortable with the ball in my hands," Sanders said. "I knew we only needed a two but I felt comfortable taking that shot."
Capping off her night with 14 points, Sanders' game-winning three-pointer was the biggest bucket of her life.
"I didn't know what to feel, it was amazing and awesome all at once," Sanders said.
The freshman class of Lady Bobcats continued to amaze, as Lombardino matched Sanders' 14, nine of which came in the third quarter, and Michelle Chrisman had eight, including two three pointers in the first half.
"This win is a definite confidence booster for us," Robinson said. "As a young team, we needed this going into the next game."
The win took the Lady Bobcats to 2-2 for the season, hoping to ride the high of this win into winter break.
In their final game before the break, the Lady 'Cats dropped a home contest to Lansing, losing 49-31.
Sanders, Paterson and Ashley Jeannin led the Bobcats with five points a piece, but the team was held scoreless in the first quarter and fell 18-4 in the fourth, to set the final margin.
The Bobcats' next game will come Friday, Jan. 7 when they host arch-rival Bonner Springs High School.