Down 40-32 with four minutes left Tuesday night, Avon coach Meghan Larrick called a timeout. She had seen enough struggling and knew her Eagles had plenty of time and gumption to make one last run against their bitter rivals Avon Lake.
What followed was a complete turnaround.
The Eagles went on an 11-0 run in two minutes to take a 43-40 lead, then held together just enough defensively to pull out a 46-45 victory, their first over the Shoregals since December of 2016.
“We looked into the girls’ eyes and said we’ve been to this point before. We’ve been in this situation,” Larrick said. “(We said) you guys have to keep fighting and believe we can do this.”
Three players scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Abby Liber’s 14 points. Senior Ashlee Torbert scored 12 and junior Alyssa Peganoff added 10.
“We go back out there (after the timeout) and hit a three and we were all just like, we can do this,” Torbert said. “We’ve still got four minutes left and the game’s not over yet. I don’t think we’ve won at Avon Lake in so long, and it feels great.”
Torbert, who also grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists, got the rally started with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 40-35. Catie Geiger scored with a layup on the next possession and, after another defensive stop, Peganoff drilled a three to tie the game at 40 with 2:26 remaining.
Off a missed free throw by Shoregals forward Grace Dean, Torbert snagged the rebound and sped up-court, with one defender between her and the basket. She ran into contact to the left of the rim, drawing a foul. Her close-range shot hit the rim and backboard before dropping in for two more points and the lead. She made the ensuing free throw for a 43-40 advantage.
“It was probably luck, honestly,” Torbert said. “I always try to draw the foul, and usually I don’t get the call. But this time I chucked it up there and it went in.”
Avon Lake’s Emily Yarham split two pairs of free throws to pull within 43-42 with a minute left, but Liber drove to the basket with 23.7 seconds left and converted a layup as she was fouled to increase the lead. Her free throw made it 46-42.
In the final seconds, Shoregals senior Arianna Negron split a pair of free throws and junior Kiley Boutin laid in a put-back before the one-point loss was sealed.
“We’ve been in situations like these before where we’ve been down, and when we’ve been down we normally stayed down,” said Liber, who also finished with a game-high 13 rebounds. “We knew if we stayed positive we would come through and get this win.”
A tough win against a talented rival on the road could be just what the doctor ordered for an Avon team that had been riding a bit of a rollercoaster all season with uneven play. The Eagles (9-6, 8-4 SWC) held the Shoregals (12-4, 8-4 SWC) to 28% shooting and caused 13 turnovers despite running into foul trouble in both halves.
The Shoregals held leads of eight and nine points during the game, and played a tough brand of defense themselves, holding the Eagles to 33% shooting and harassing them into 15 turnovers. But they were never able to shake off the Eagles, who trailed 11-6 after one quarter and used a 7-0 run late in the second to go into halftime up 21-20.
Avon Lake seemed to take control of the game in the fourth before Avon’s final push, and despite a big free throw disparity (26-13), it couldn’t take advantage, hitting just 12 of them.
The Shoregals made four of their 12 fourth-quarter free throws.
“We were 12-for-26 (from the line), and there you go, one-point game,” Shoregals coach Dave Zvara said. “Foul shots hurt us and turnovers. We made some terrible decisions in our passing, too, which is not like us.”
Dean and junior guard Emma Knick finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Shoregals, while Negron finished with eight points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists.
Avon has back-to-back road games tonight against Lakewood and Saturday at Berea-Midpark on Wednesday, while Avon Lake travels to play the Titans on Saturday, before playing host to Westlake on Wednesday.
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