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Hake’s free throw clinches Cougars win

Eastland's Hannah Hake sinks to the floor after making the game-winning free throw with no time remaining in overtime Thursday against Amboy in the championship game of the Forreston Sectional. Eastland won 55-54.
Eastland's Hannah Hake sinks to the floor after making the game-winning free throw with no time remaining in overtime Thursday against Amboy in the championship game of the Forreston Sectional. Eastland won 55-54.

Minutes later after the shot fell, the mascara was running and inside the dark tones under Hannah Hake's eyes were millions of tiny sparkles.

But, Hake shined the brightest.

The Eastland senior hit the front end of a one-and-one with no time left on the overtime clock on Thursday at the 1A Forreston Sectional.

That was all Cougars needed, capturing a 55-54 win over a determined Amboy Clipper team.

Eastland moves on to play Hinckley-Big Rock at the 1A DeKalb Supersectional at 7 p.m on Monday at NIU's Convocation Center.

"I haven't made free throws during games like that all year," Hake said. "During the timeout before the shot, coach said she had faith in me and told me just to pretend it was practice."

"I was so very, very proud of her," Eastland coach Colleen Finn-Henze said. "By midway through the first half, she was so frustrated because No. 44 (Kaitlyn Liebing) was having her way against her. She really hung in there and battled back. She's always been such a fighter."

Eastland (27-5) took possession of the ball with 55 seconds left in the overtime after a free throw by Karlee Doege tied the score at the opposite end.

The Cougars held the ball on the outside, letting the clock tick down to 17.8 seconds before calling timeout.

After the timeout, the ball moved around again before Hake gained control to right of the basket with time ticking down. She made a move against Doege, shot and missed. Somewhere in that sequence the buzzer sounded and the ref blew the whistle.

Amboy coach MIke McCracken and the Clipper faithful felt the shot and foul happened after the buzzer.

"This is the second time this season we lost a game in the last 1.3 seconds, and had to sit back and watch the game end at the line," McCracken said. "I thought I heard the buzzer, but there's nothing we can do.

"I have nothing but respect for Eastland and the program that Colleen runs. Both teams fought very hard tonight. I told the girls the difference was one rebound here, or one made shot there. It was the slimmest of margins."

Hake made all five of her free throw attempts in the overtime, which accounted for all five of Eastland's points.

She also had hit two free throws with 14.1 seconds left in regulation to give Eastland a 50-48 advantage.

Amboy (21-7) answered on that occasion, as freshman Delaney Wilhelm brought the ball all the way up the court and hit a running jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 7.5 seconds left.

"Her and Karlee are both freshman, and they both hit big shots tonight," McCracken said. "With the foul situation, we had a lot of different lineups out there. We were forced to have our experienced junior on the bench, and the younger players stepped up."

Wilhelm had 14 points and three steals. Doege had nine points.

The only player that saw action for Amboy on Thursday that will graduate is Micaela McCoy. The rest of the players should be back to take another run at a sectional title in 2015.

That includes junior Kaitlyn Liebing, who started the game dominating fashion. The 5-foot-8 center had nine of Amboy's 10 first-quarter points. She ended with 13 points by halftime and eight rebounds. Her final tally was 18 points and 15 rebounds.

"She was really, really good," Finn-Henze said. "There was awhile there where we couldn't do anything against her."

"She had the game of her life," McCracken said. "Just played her heart out. She got very tired."

The physical play took its toll on the post players, and it led to a lot fouls.

Amboy finished with 30 fouls and had three players foul out. Eastland had 24 fouls.

Both teams were not surprised by the physicality.

"As a post player, it seems like I get beat up every game," Eastland center Lexis Macomber said. "It was physical tonight, but I thought we did a good job of not backing down."

Macomber had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Amboy took the lead at 8-7 with 2:14 left in the first quarter. The did not relinquish the lead until midway through the fourth quarter. At one point in the third quarter the Clippers were ahead by nine points at 30-21.

"I was just out there trying to stay as positive as possible," Macomber said. "We couldn't give up. We knew that we could beat them, we just had to want it more."

Star of the game: Hannah Hake, Eastland, 15 points, 10 rebounds, game-winning free throw in overtime.

Key performers: Lexis Macomber, Eastland, 14 points, 13 rebounds; Kaitlyn Liebing, Amboy, 18 points, 15 rebounds.

Up next: 1A DeKalb Supersectional, Eastland vs. Hinckley-Big Rock, 7 p.m. Monday

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