Her face belied the tumult in her tummy.
North Central senior Lindsey Schaefer made two free throws with 6 seconds left to force an if-necessary championship game in the District 8 3A tournament as the second-seeded Indians rallied to knock off No. 1 Shadle Park 42-41 Wednesday at Shadle.
“I was about to throw up,” said Schaefer, who also endured two timeouts by the Highlanders in an attempt to make an already intense situation more unnerving. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything.”
NC (15-8) and Shadle Park (15-7) will play for a fifth time tonight, back at Shadle, to decide the lone berth to state. Tipoff is at 5:30. It will also serve as the rubber game of the series.
Shadle had one last possession, but a 3-point shot caromed off the rim at the buzzer.
The Indians are seeking their first trip to state, and coach Gabe Medrano took the opportunity to reinforce it during his postgame talk.
“I told them that eventually some day there’s a team that says, ‘It’s our time. It doesn’t matter if no one has done it before’,” Medrano said. “There’s a team that says, ‘It’s time to break that door down.’ I said, ‘Why not you guys?’”
A basket by Kaycee Hert with 3 minutes remaining gave the Highlanders a 41-35 lead. But they didn’t score again. Instead, they had four turnovers in the final 2:36, the last coming on their next-to-last possession with 16 seconds to go.
“We had some breakdowns there and a couple of times we lost our composure,” Shadle coach Chad Dezellem said. “Maybe we got a little tentative on offense.”
Schaefer, who scored a team-high 14 points off the bench, made two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the final one pulling NC within 41-40 with 1:13 remaining.
Shadle earned the double-elimination tag by handling NC 63-50 in a district opener last Saturday.
“I fully expect them to bounce back and compete hard,” Dezellem said. “North Central’s a good team so we’re going to have to bring it.”
Medrano wasn’t surprised by Schaefer’s heroics.
“We’ve known she can score, we know she can shoot it,” he said. “It’s just getting her mentally ready to come in and do that stuff. There have been games where she hasn’t been close. She did a clutch job.”
Aleisha Hathaway led Shadle with 13 points and six rebounds.
“I told them it’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up,” Dezellem said. “Athletics is about adversity. It’s how you handle things.”
The Highlanders, seasoned as they are, struggled down the stretch.
“Sometimes there are things you can’t control that happen and you’ve just got to play through it,” Dezellem said.
NC boys upset Titans
The North Central boys forced the if-necessary game in the District 8 3A tournament Wednesday.
The Indians handed the University Titans their first loss to a 3A team with a 66-59 decision at U-Hi. NC (10-12) returns to U-Hi (16-6) at 7:15 tonight to decide the district’s lone state berth.
NC opened a 39-26 by halftime. The Titans outscored the Indians 23-10 in the third quarter, forging a 49-all tie going into the final quarter.
Four players scored in double figures for the Indians. Aaron Antoine led with 16 points; Zac Hill, who made 6 of 7 shots, had 15 to go with six rebounds; Gunnar Swagger had 14 and five rebounds; and Jake Degon had 13. The foursome accounted for all but eight of the Indians’ points.
Jared Miller and Brett Bailey had 11 points apiece for U-Hi and Conner Johnson had 10 and three steals.
U-Hi made 6 of 25 3-pointers. The difference for the Indians came at the free-throw line, where they made 14 of 19 shots to the Titans’ 5 of 10.