Leetonia, Ohio (WKBN) - The Leetonia girls basketball team may not be at the top of the EOAC standings, but they are hard at work in prepping for the post-season. As a result, the Lady Bears knocked off the Wellsville Tigers 46-44 in a hard-fought last-second victory.
With the win, the Bears improve to 7-5 on the season, 4-5 in the EOAC. The Tigers drop to 0-13 on the season, 0-9 in the league.
“This was a big game,” Bears coach John Hritz exclaimed. “The thing I liked about it was that we had a lead then lost it and we learned a lot by learning how to overcome adversity. We could have caved in and gave up, but the kids hung in there and played good defense.”
“Any buzzer beater game or just a win will make your confidence soar,” Bears sophomore guard Samantha Schneider stated. “I say this (win) did a lot for us.”
“Coming in we had a game plan and they pretty much executed the game plan,” a proud but disappointed Tigers coach Ed Swogger said. “Especially in the second half, I thought the game plan really came together. First half they were getting a lot of layups on us but in the second half we kind of shut that part down. The effort was so great tonight. I’m just so proud of these girls.”
With 32-seconds remaining in the contest, the Tigers Hunter Weekley connected on a basket to knot the game up at 44-44. Both teams committed a turnover in the following ten seconds before the Bears ran an in-bounds that allowed Schneider to drive in from the left lane and score the game-winning basket with only 15 ticks remaining in the contest. The Tigers would commit two turnovers in the final seconds as the Bears hung on for the victory.
“We wanted Samantha to get the ball,” Hritz explained. “We looped her and we wanted her to get the layup because we wanted the ball in our best guards hands. She was going to penetrate, and they had to stop her. And if they go on her she can dish off, which it all happened the way we planned it. It doesn’t happen very often, but it did tonight.”
“I didn’t know how much time was left on the clock, but if I had looked I probably wouldn’t have made that (shot),” Schneider joked.
“That comes from a team that just isn't used to winning,” Swogger remarked about the two turnovers after the Bears took the lead. “We don’t have that winning mentality, and we don’t know what to do in situations like that because it just hasn’t been there this year. That’s a learning process.”
The win by the Bears came after a furious comeback by the Tigers in the fourth quarter of the game. Trailing by 8 at the end of the fourth quarter 37-29, the Tigers went on a 12-1 run to take a 41-38 lead at the 4:42 mark of the final frame. But after the game was tied at 42-42 with just under two minutes left, the Bears Ari Russel connected on two free throws to put them up 44-42 with 58 seconds remaining. Then Weekly would hit her shot to tie the game and set up the game-winning shot by the Bears.
“We were down eight at the half and it was still eight after three (periods),” Swogger reflected. “So we played even with them in the third. I told them if they make a few stops we can be right back in this game. They did exactly that.”
“Wellsville had nothing to lose,” Hritz explained. “They had everything to gain, and the name of the game is momentum. Once you get that momentum or lose it, it’s just like a snowball going down a mountain. How do we stop this snowball? But our kids were able to overcome that and they didn’t lose their composure. I think it’s going to help us down the road at tournament time. I really do.”
“They had some real drive,” Schneider recognized the Tigers effort. “They came here to win and they showed a lot of toughness on the court. I really respect that. At the same time, there was a lot of determination on our side.”
The Bears held a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter and increased their advantage to 8-points at 27-19 at the intermission. The Bears would push their lead to a game-high 10-points at 31-21 early in the third quarter before holding an 8-point, 37-29 lead at the end of the third period.
Senior Ari Russell led the Bears with 11 points on the night while Anna Buffone added 10. Schneider would contribute 9 with Taran Ferry netting 8.
The Tigers were led by Camryn Jackson with a game-high 14 points, followed by Hunter Weekly with 12 and Cameron Carlevale adding 11. Weekly would hit the only three-pointer in the contest.
The Bears will return to action next on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Lowellville. The Tigers will return to action on Monday when they host league rival Lisbon.
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