By David Sharp
Knox County turned an early nine point deficit into a six point lead with four and a half minutes remaining in a Highland Tournament girls' consolation semi-final match up with Unity of Mendon, Illinois. The Lady Mustangs (6-7) and Eagles battled through the last two minutes in a one possession game.
Alyssa Duffy sank a Unity free throw, tying the game with 4.8 seconds remaining. Duffy put back a missed second try for a stunning 47-45 Lady Mustang win. Tessa Ramer scored a game high 15 Knox County points. Stacey Leckbee was in double figures with 11 points.
Unity came out a step quicker at the beginning of the contest. Knox County (3-6) could not get enough good shots at the goal, and fell behind by a 15-6 margin with 1:33 showing on the first quarter clock.
Tessa Ramer lit the fuse for five unanswered KCHS points with a one minute mark three ball. Amanda Woods worked free for a good inside field goal at the 44 second mark of the first quarter. Unity saw their lead trimmed to 15-11 after eight minutes of basketball.
Both teams caused turnovers with aggressive second quarter defense. Unity led 21-15 at the 3:19 mark of the second period. Stacey Leckbee sank a buzzer beating three pointer pulling the Lady Eagles within a 24-20 halftime deficit.
Knox County got the better of period three. Ball pressure defense propelled the Lady Eagles to an 11-4 run and a 31-28 lead at the three quarter pole.
The Lady Eagles cracked off another scoring spurt during the early minutes of the fourth quarter. Myra Parrish buried a three pointer out of the corner for a 34-28 KCHS lead with 7:22 showing on the final period clock.
Katie Ausmus set up Amanda Woods for a sharp looking field goal at the 6:23 mark of period four. Knox County held a 36-28 advantage at that juncture. The Lady Eagles pressured Unity for 17 steals and led 38-32 with 4:28 remaining in the game.
Unity took advantage of some youthful Lady Eagle mental mistakes down the stretch. The Lady Mustangs out rebounded Knox County most of the contest. Unity took better care of the basketball during the closing period, limiting Knox County to one steal during the final four minutes.
Sara Stoll, a 6'1" junior stole the ball and pulled Unity within a field goal with 3:20 showing on the fourth quarter clock. Stacey Leckbee pulled the basketball out of a pile and gave Knox County a 41-36 lead with 3:06 to play in the game. Leckbee's conventional three point play was answered by three Lady Mustang points for a 41-39 KCHS edge with 120 seconds to play in regulation time.
Tessa Ramer sank two pressure packed free throws at the 1:07 mark for a 43-39 lead. Brooke Hendrickson sank a clutch Lady Mustang three ball. Alyssa Duffy stole the ball and gave Unity a 44-43 edge with 40 seconds to play in the game.
Stacey Leckbee made another key play for the Lady Eagles. The 5'2" freshman guard grabbed another offensive rebound and scored with 15 seconds showing on the clock for a 45-44 Knox County lead.
Unity drove down the court in the final seconds. Alyssa Duffy broke free and was fouled going for the potential game winning basket. Duffy tied the game with a free throw at the 4.8 second mark of period four.
The second free throw try rang off the rim. Knox County failed to box out adequately on the boards. The basketball bounced off several outstretched hands to Alyssa Duffy, who scored with two seconds showing on the clock. Knox County got off a half court shot for the win. The scoring attempt fell short of the mark and Unity celebrated their come from behind 47-45 victory.
Knox County pulled down 22 rebounds on the night. Stacey Leckbee, Amanda Woods and Lorrie Peters collected five rebounds each. The Lady Eagles turned the basketball over 16 times on the night. Knox County recorded a solid 18 steals, led by Tessa Ramer with five and Lorrie Peters with four thefts.
Katie Ausmus had four of the Lady Eagles' 11 assists. Amanda Woods scored eight KCHS points. Lorrie Peters finished with six points. Myra Parrish scored three points and Becca Mallett added two points.
Knox County sank five of their seven free throw attempts. Unity was 7-13 from the stripe. Alyssa Duffy paced Unity with 14 points. Sara Stoll was in double figures with ten Lady Mustang points.
"We did a lot of things right, that's not what the girls wanted to hear after the way the game ended," said Knox County coach John Weaver. "We made a lot of mental mistakes down the stretch. We were down four at halftime and extended a lead to six points."
"They made plays down the stretch," said Coach Weaver. "We made a few, they just made one or two more than we did. We turned the ball over 16 times. That probably didn't lead to 32 points for them, but it did lead to 12 or 14 points."
"Everybody is going to look at that last shot and say we didn't box out," said Weaver. "But we had six or eight key turnovers in the first and second half. That's where you lose games like this."
"We played a great Canton team earlier in the tournament," said Coach Weaver. "The biggest thing I look for now is for us to be physical, to rebound and to compete. We did that for 95% of the game tonight."
The defeat eliminated Knox County from trophy consideration. Knox County has two conference games coming up this week. The Lady Eagles host North Shelby on January 8 and travel to Scotland County for another Tri-Rivers conference contest on Friday, January 11. Knox County participates in the North Shelby Tournament beginning Tuesday January 15, 2008.
The sixth seeded Lady Eagles take on Marion County at 7:30PM. Knox County drew the two seed on the boys' bracket and take on North Shelby at 9PM on Tuesday night.