PONTIAC – Host Pontiac came to life in the second half, but the Fieldcrest Knights rallied late in the fourth quarter to come away with a big 41-38 victory over the Lady Indians Thursday night during the semifinal action of the Class 2A Pontiac Regional.
Hannah Baker sank the go-ahead jumper with 20 seconds left and Allie Goodrich made two clutch insurance free throws for the Knights, who survived a couple of last-second threats before moving into Friday night's 7 p.m. championship game against El Paso-Gridley.
In the late semifinal, EPG was a 40-27 winner over a Paxton-Buckley-Loda team that was short handed by the flu. The Knights will have the difficult task of trying to defeat the Lady Titans for the third time this season as FHS won both of those contests 32-29.
Fieldcrest’s defense was outstanding in the first half as it limited the Lady Indians to just nine points, but Pontiac had a big third quarter and entered the final eight minutes of play with a 27-24 lead and building momentum. The Lady Indians extended that lead to 29-24 when Addison Masching, who had a tooth knocked out earlier in the second half, returned and hit both of her free throw attempts.
Shortly after that, the Knights' Hannah Baker stole the ball and went the length of the court for the score. Moments later, after a Lady Indians layup, Ella Goodrich was fouled and hit both of her foul shots to make it 31-28.
Then it seemed as if the Lady Indians grabbed just about every offensive rebound and this time it was Lindsey Hunt with a putback that gave Pontiac a 33-28 edge. Next time down the floor, the Lady Indians got an old fashioned 3-point play from Masching that pushed the Pontiac lead to 36-28.
From there, the Knights slowly started their comeback when Hannah Baker hit the layup and then another off an inbounds play that cut the deficit to 36-32.
“I just kept telling the girls we’re not done,” Baker said. “I knew we had it in us to come back. We just had to settle down and play our game.”
Pontiac got another offensive rebound two possessions later and a putback from Hunt to give the Lady Indians a 38-32 advantage. But then it was Samantha Vazquez’s turn to get the offensive rebound and put back to make it 38-34 and then next time down the floor Ashlyn May hit a monster 3-pointer that made it 38-37.
“You just have to keep telling these girls to keep fighting,” Neally said. “Ashlyn another of the young girls on the team and just hits a huge shot there to cut the game to a point.”
With 46 seconds left, Tristina Einhaus missed the front end of her one and one and that brought a Alyx Carls 3-point attempt that rattled out, but after getting the rebound Pontiac immediately turned the ball over.
With 20 seconds left, Baker drilled the mid range jump shot to regain the lead for the Lady Knights 39-38.
“Honestly I was open and took the shot,” Baker said. “We were down and my teammates got the ball to me and never hesitated with the open shot and was able to hit it.”
But with 7.4 seconds left on the clock Alyssa Fox was fouled by Baker, but missed the front end of her two free throws and then stepped over the line on the second attempt giving the ball back to Fieldcrest.
Goodrich was fouled with five seconds left and calmly hit both of her shots to finish the game 7-for-7 from the line and put the Lady Knights ahead 41-38.
“She is normally a 50 percent free throw shooter,” Knights coach Mitch Neally said. “But tonight she stepped to the line and was perfect and we needed everyone of them.”
“Today we came into the gym before the game and just shot free throws,” Goodrich said. “I just told myself that this is the game that really counts and did the same routine each time and hit all my shots tonight. I was so nervous during those last two, but I wanted to hit them for the seniors. I didn’t want this to be their last game.”
After a Pontiac timeout, the Lady Indians threw the ball the length of the court and eventually got it to Masching, whose 3-point attempt was wide of the mark and securing the Knights win.
“That game was exactly what I expected,” Neally said. “We didn’t play yesterday or practice and today we didn’t have school and without playing a game in a week I thought we might come out a little rusty and we did, but what a job these girls did tonight and to finish like they did is amazing.”
Fieldcrest was led by Baker with 12 points to go along with nine points each from Vazquez and Goodrich. Pontiac was led by Hunt with 10.