DONNELLSON - Central Lee's bench was dancing earlier this week on a last-second win over Danville. That dance almost continued Tuesday on Senior Night.
The Lady Hawks trailed by 12 points with 1:55 left in the third period, but came all the way back to force overtime before falling 60-58 in a SEI Superconference matchup at Central Lee.
Mary Kate Bendlage, who had a game-high 34 points, converted underneath where the game was getting very physical, with just under two minutes left in the third period to give the Crusaders a 40-28 lead.
Makayla Morrison hit a 3-pointer with :14 seconds left in the third period to cut the lead to nine. Then Mya Lampe hit a three to open the fourth period to make it a seven point game.
The Crusaders missed their first three shots of the final period as Central Lee closed to within four on another Morrison bucket inside the arc. Kayla Box finally got HTC on the board in the fourth working in the lane, but Lampe hit another of her five 3-balls on the night to cut the lead to three at 42-39.
Holy Trinity shot a cool 3 of 16 from the field in the fourth quarter with a very physical Central Lee interior defense keeping Bendlage working for buckets.
Central Lee’s Kenna Sandoval hit a three with 4:36 left in the game to give the Lady Hawks their first lead of the second half 44-42. Bendlage would tie it up at the other end with 4:00 left. Lampe would hit a rare bucket inside the arc for the only other field goal of the quarter for either team to tie things up at 47.
Morrison would hit a couple free throws to give Central Lee a 49-47 lead with 1:04 left, but the Crusaders' Teagan Snaadt answered with two freebies with :32 left. Mary Hellige would commit a foul along the baseline with nine seconds left, but freshman Taylor Jones missed the front end of the one-and-one and HTC couldn’t convert before the end of regulation.
Hellige would make amends down the stretch. In the meantime, the Crusaders missed their first two shots from the field in the four-minute OT period. Central pulled away 53-49 before Anna Bendlage buried a 3-ball from the left wing to make it 53-52.
On Central Lee’s next possession the Hawks got bogged down on the perimeter, forcing head coach Taylor Hickey to call a time out with 1 second left on the shot clock. The Hawks set up an inbound play underneath the basket and Morrison was able to sneak in and convert inside with a foul.
She made the free throw to make it a four point game, but Bendlage answered with a couple free throws and then Snaadt hit the back end of a double bonus to make it a 1-point game. After missing the first free throw, the ball bounced right back to Snaadt who thought it was a one-and-one situation and she shot again quickly prompting the Central Lee bunch to call a technical, but officials ruled Snaadt didn’t realize it was a two-shot bonus and no foul was called. Snaadt hit the second freebie to make it a one-point game.
Morrison scored again with :27 left slashing through the lane in transition on the way down.
Holy Trinity would miss twice on the next possession but got a couple offensive rebounds and kicked the ball out to Hellige who hit a three-ball from the left wing to tie the score again at 58. Central Lee couldn’t get a shot off at the other end when Morrison drove and dished inside but the ball got away. Mary Kate Bendlage scooped it up and took off for the other end with :06 on the clock.
She was fouled on the way down and hit both free throws. That left the Hawks four seconds, but they couldn’t get a decent shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Snaadt had 10 for Holy Trinity. Hellige had eight. Sandoval had 19 to lead Central Lee. Lampe and Morrison each pitched in with 17.
“Right now, whenever we play Holy Trinity, it’s always a very good game. Both teams are very competitive. I can remember last year, they won on a buzzer-beater and that was on our minds coming in. We were just on the other side of this again,” Hickey said.
“The biggest thing is experience. Makayla had the ball with time running down and I thought she was going to the basket and would get fouled with us in the bonus, but she ended up passing, and they are a good defensive team. They came away with the steal. We should’ve let the time run down and play that out on our end.
"This gives us momentum. We are on the other end of this last week. We’re getting confidence and the girls know they can do it and things are possible."
Holy Trinity Head Coach Tony Johnson said games like this come down to a few plays, despite Bendlage putting up 34.
“We had one more point than them, that’s all the points I care about,” Johnson said.
“It was a game of runs. It seems like we’d go on a four or five- point run and then they would change it and they would go on a run. There was not a flow to the game because all the fouls called. That fourth quarter and overtime was pretty rugged."
Johnson said close games with the season running down are good for the Crusaders.
“Having close games like this is better going into the playoffs than just running through people. These games are much better building blocks than a blowout game. You don’t learn a lot in a blowout game.”
The Hawks fall to 6-8 in the SEISC South and 8-11 overall. HTC improves to 7-7 in the loop and 11-8 overall. Both teams will play in this weekend's SEI Superconference Shootout.
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