Just a week ago, Lakewood Coach Julie Work had the look of complete sadness.
Her Rangers had fought back from a 14-point deficit only to lose in the waning moments against Elyria Catholic in the championship game of the Girls Great Lakes Conference tournament.
Although she wasn't overly excited, she did break into a smile last Saturday after her team took a hard-fought 51-49 victory in the opening round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Region 2 Northeast 5 sectional against visiting North Royalton.
Why wasn't she more jubilant? The final minute took longer than many visits to the DMV.
“That was like an hour-plus,” Work said.
Her team will move on to the next round, when it travels to play Avon Lake at 7 p.m. Thursday.
But to get to the next round, the Rangers had to overcome several tense moments.
Leading 51-46 after an inside basket by Sydney Hampton, the Rangers had their lead cut to 2 on a free throw followed by a basket by the Bears' Livi Kovach with just 48 seconds left that cut the advantage to 2 points..
After a missed 3-pointer, the Bears lost an opportunity to cut into the lead when Brooklyn Gambino, who tied for the Bears leading scorer with 12 points, missed a pair of free throws with just 8.7 seconds left. A jump ball on the rebound gave Lakewood the ball.
On the trip upcourt, another tie-up, this time with 4.3 seconds left, gave North Royalton another chance to tie or win the game.
Instead, Jacquie Hudak stole the ball and was fouled with 1.5 seconds remaining. The Rangers had not reached the bonus, so they had to inbound the ball. Ava Carroll grabbed it as time ran out.
“The reality is that it's one and done moving forward,” Work said. “Both teams played their hearts out. They have some great ball players. It's unfortunate that somebody has to lose this, but that's the reality of sports.”
The contest proved to be physical for both teams with several players limping or nursing bruises during and afterward.
Lakewood's bench proved to be vital with nine players scoring. Aya McAuliffe's 3-pointer – her only points – came with just 2.3 seconds left, knotting the game at 40-40 going into the final period.
“Our bench has been outstanding in the past couple of games,” Work said. “That's something that they weren't throughout the year, but it tells you something this time of year where we can have at it and get out wins like this. This is a big one for these kids. They need to know that they could do it.”
Prior to last week's 51-60 loss to Elyria Catholic, the Rangers were on a hot streak, winning 10 of 11 games. They will meet an Avon Lake team that hasn't played well of late. The Shoregals defeated Elyria 54-20 a week ago, but had lost five of their previous seven games.
“We haven't seen them all year,” Work said. “They were here scouting. But we'll share some film. It's common courtesy. But we're excited.”
Delaney Garcia was the Rangers leading scorer with 12 points, followed by Carroll and Hampton each scoring 8. Jacquie Hudak scored 6, Annette Doren had 5, and both Samantha Hudak and McAuliffe had 3. Sophia Zarbo had 2.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.