OREGON – Newman (9-15) had its prayers answered in the final moments of its 2A Oregon Regional semifinal matchup against Morrison (14-15).
The game was put in the hands of senior Mary Alice Oswalt, who stepped to the free-throw line with 8.6 seconds left to shoot a one-and-one. The Comets trailed by apoint.
The first attempt hit the back of the rim, rolled to the front, before finally dropping in. The Comet crowd sighed. Those sighs turned to cheers moments later, as she hit the second to give the Comets a one-point lead. The lead turned into a 44-43 win second later.
"First of all, I said a quick prayer to myself. 'If I miss every other shot, that is fine, as long as I make these.' I needed to make them for my team," said Oswalt, who scored a game-high 18 points. "A guardian angel helped me, and I blocked everything else out and shot."
Moments earlier, Morrison took its first lead of the game. With 15 seconds left in the game, Fillie freshman Emma Melton found senior Chelsea Eads free in the short corner. Eads fired up the little jumper, which found the bottom of the net to give the Fillies a 43-42 lead.
"It was defintely back-and-forth at the end," Eads said. "I tried chucking up a shot at the end that I wasn't open for with 3 seconds left. We had another chance, but now we can't do much about it. There were plenty of tears in the locker room afterwards."
Tight defensive pressure, and a new-look press put on by the Comets bothered the Fillies early and often.
"They ran a press that we didn't see the first two times from them," Morrison coach Tyler Whitebread said. "I couldn't explain it good enough to the girls during a timeout because we couldn't run it right. That defintely put us in a hole."
Newman created 17 turnovers in the first half with its press, and it translated into a large lead on the scoreboard. An 11-point advantage at halftime quickly turned into a 17-point lead for the Comets with 5 minutes to play in the third quarter.
"Three games ago, we really extended our pressure," Newman coach Jay Howell said. "Things were not going well for us in the halfcourt, and we decided to make it an 84-foot game. The girls are just getting used to it, but they are good at trapping, and putting pressure on. That really helped us. We needed every bit of a lead we could get off of it."
It was then the Fillies' turn to shine. They cracked the press
A 3-pointer by junior Lakin Goodman was sandwhiched in the middle of four baskets from freshman Kassidee Church. This was the kick start of a 17-0 run by Morrison. The last three points of the run came from Eads, who hit a three from the top of the key to knot things up at 36. She finished with 11 points.
"We set that up at halftime, and the girls executed well," Whitebread said. "We had a few subs go in because we didn't think the starters were playing at the level they needed to, and our subs did a great job. They did a great job. I knew we were down big, and they made us come back which was awesome. Unfortunately, we couldn't get that last shot at the end to drop."
Back-to-back baskets from freshman Mary Jensen quieted the Morrison run, but the game was still far from over, as Eads once again hit a 3-pointer to bring her team back within a point at 40-39.
The Comets answered with a layup from junior Sarah Trujillo, with a nice assist from fellow junior Aubree Schmitt to go back up 42-39.
A basket 30 seconds later from Fillie freshman Emma Sitzmore with 1:40 left set up the thrilling finish. As Newman played keep away for most of its possession, a travelling violation gave the ball back to Morrison to set up the Fillies' go-ahead possesion.
"The way they cameback, we just kept shaking our heads," said Howell. "We made some probably bad decisions offensively. We were looking for the perfect pass, rather than working through the offense.
"Everything they were throwing up was going in. That can really put doubt in your head. Thank goodness we had some composure down the stretch at the end. Mary Alice hit some pretty clutch free throws for us. It's a good win for us after splitting with them during the season, and coming out here as a three seed and winning it – that feels good too."
Star of the game: Mary Alice Oswalt, Newman, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
Key performers: Chelsea Eads, Morrison, 11 points. Sarah Trujillo, Newman, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals. Kassidee Church, Morrison, 11 points,5 rebounds, 4 steals.