By David Sharp
The Lady Eagles made plays in the final three minutes of a February 19, 2010 Tri-Rivers Conference home game with Putnam County. Knox County erased a five point deficit in the game’s last 5:51 for a 32-29 victory.
Knox County ran their overall record to 16-7, claiming the undisputed Tri-Rivers girl’s basketball championship.
Knox County has won a share of the girls’ conference crown several times, including their most recent district championship seasons in 1990 and 1991.
The Lady Eagles ran the table, concluding their conference season with an unblemished 7-0 record. Knox County overcame a 23% shooting night along with a 7-20 performance at the free throw line, good for 35%.
What the Lady Eagles lacked in scoring touch, the made up for with heart and playmaking ability.
Defending girls’ conference champion Putnam County denied Knox County a share of the 2009 laurels with a victory at Unionville last season.
“We hung with them and battled with them,” said Putnam County coach Mike Schmidli. “In the end, their experience and their players stepping up hurt us.”
“We rotate five freshmen and two sophomores in,” said Coach Schmidli.
“Our inexperience showed at times. We probably weren’t patient enough when they made their run. Their two big post players hurt us inside. We made them work for what they got. We are playing with poise.”
“I know we are gaining some respect in that regard. We are focused on trying to get better each game, and I think we are doing that. We have lost a lot of close games,” said Mike Schmidli. “In the end, we are losing to teams that have more varsity experience than us.”
Putnam County (7-13, 1-5) shot the ball better in the first half. The Lady Midgets forged an 8-4 lead with a minute remaining in the first quarter. Stacey Leckbee stole the ball and scored with five seconds remaining in the opening period.
The clutch three quarter court driving lay in trimmed the Lady Midget lead to 8-6. Knox County did not allow very many good shots defensively. The Lady Eagles scored the second quarter’s first five points, taking an 11-8 lead with 7:12 showing on the clock.
Marissa Shuey pulled the Lady Midgets within a basket with 38 seconds to play in the first half. Knox County took a 17-15 lead to intermission.
The Lady Eagles led by as many as four points early in the third quarter. Sarah Riley nailed a pair of homerun balls putting Putnam County up by a 23-20 score with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter.
Knox County scored the final points of the period, trailing 23-22 at the final break. Putnam County limited the Lady Eagles to one shot early in the second half. Marissa Shuey gave Putnam County a 27-22 lead with 5:50 to play in the game.
“Before the game we were bound and determined we did not want to share the conference (championship),” said Knox County senior forward Lorrie Peters. “We had such a battle with Schuyler (County). We decided that it didn’t matter how we started out, we were going to end with a win.”
Becca Mallett scored over two Lady Midget defenders at the 4:15 mark of the third quarter bringing the Lady Eagles back within three points. Lorrie Peters drove the rack for another KCHS score.
Putnam County had three empty possessions at a critical part of the contest. Becca Mallett took a rebound away from the Lady Midgets. The capacity crowd roared when Mallett put Knox County back in the lead at 28-27 with 2:25 to go in regulation time.
“We have worked four years to get to this point,” said Becca Mallett after the contest. “It means a lot to our four seniors. The success is finally happening. The feeling is hard to describe.”
“Our experience really showed at that time,” said Mallett of a crucial 6-0 run that put the Lady Eagles back in the lead in the last two minutes of the contest. “They are a very young team. We did what we needed to do. Our defense got it done in this game, definitely not our offense.”
Dakoda Owings stepped up on the other end and scored with two minutes showing on the clock. Putnam County led 29-28. Lorrie Peters strode to the free throw line and sank a pair of free throws with 1:40 to play in the game.
Knox County regained the lead by a 30-29 margin. Putnam County had ten fouls on the board to four KC team fouls with around a minute to play in the game.
The Lady Eagles had three two shot free throw opportunities in the last minute of the game. All six shots missed the mark. Lorrie Peters grabbed an offensive rebound of a missed free throw and scored with 55 seconds showing on the clock for a 32-29 edge.
Hannah Dale made a play when she stole the ball at three quarter court with 25 ticks on the clock. A missed lay up and two missed free throws later, Putnam County had the ball again trailing by three points.
Lorrie Peters blocked Samantha Shipley’s potential game tying three pointer with 12 seconds remaining in the game. Knox County missed two more free throws with 2.2 seconds to play. Putnam County could not get the ball up the court far enough for another scoring chance.
Knox County supporters could finally let their breath out, and celebrate their undefeated conference championship.
The Lady Eagles limited their turnovers to 12 and stole the ball 16 times. Knox County had 25 team rebounds, ten offensive.
The Lady Eagle dressing room rang out with joy as coach John Weaver spoke to the Edina Sentinel in the hallway. “We have talked about finishing games, especially after a four overtime win at Schuyler County,” commented John Weaver.
“It was a gritty win. The 7-0 record is a tribute to the kids,” related Coach Weaver. “We had senior leadership. Everybody is going to talk about those missed free throws. The other side of that is we still found a way to win through some adversity like that.”
“It’s good for a team late in the season. Obviously you want to be playing your best basketball right now. We can play a lot better than that. We are not playing very well right now, and we are finding ways to win.”
“That is the sign of a good team. We made a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter. That was the difference.”
“You can look at all facets of the game and we didn’t play very well for the first 29 minutes,” said John Weaver. “In the last three minutes, we found a way.”
Lorrie Peters scored a game high 15 points with nine rebounds. Becca Mallett scored eight points with eight rebounds. Stacey Leckbee scored five points with four steals. Kathleen Hinkle scored four KC points.
Hannah Dale stole the ball twice. Katie Ausmus had two steals and five rebounds. Sarah Riley led Putnam County with 12 points.