By Josh Brown
TROY — With the score tied in overtime, a share of the Metro Buckeye Conference championship on the line, Legacy Christian’s fans doing everything possible to get in her head and two incredibly rare misses from the free throw line earlier in the game weighing on her, Troy Christian senior Lauryn Lavy just went to her happy place.
“I tried not to get stressed, but I heard everybody yelling,” she said. “I tried to tune it all out and go back to all those times in the gym just practicing. I just let my body do it, not my mind.”
Lavy sank both free throws with 2:04 remaining in overtime to put the Eagles up by two, Cara Salazar hit one more free throw with 11 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game and the defense got stop after stop after stop to make that lead stand up as Troy Christian held off the Knights for a 42-39 victory Thursday night at the Eagles’ Nest to avenge a loss earlier this season and claim a share of the MBC title.
The win was Troy Christian’s 11th straight since a rough 40-22 loss to Legacy Christian on the road back on Jan. 8. With the win, the Eagles improved to 19-2 on the season and 11-1 in the MBC, while the Knights, who entered the night with a one-game lead in the conference, fell to 18-3 and 11-1 in the MBC.
“It feels great,” said Lavy, who led all scorers with 19 points off the bench and added five rebounds on the night. “We knew we could do it. It just took everybody believing and doing their best.”
“We responded tonight for the simple reason that we knew we were going up against an excellent team,” Troy Christian coach Tony Ferraro said. “They really handled us at their place, but our girls have put in a good month of work since then. The first thing we did was we decided we needed to really dig down on the defensive end. They have incredible outside shooters, so our goal was not to give them open 3s. When they did have open 3s, they made every one of them.”
Sometimes, the Knights even made them when they weren’t open.
Legacy Christian hit seven 3s on the night — none more important or impressive than Emma Hess’ overtime-forcing bomb with seven seconds remaining in regulation. Troy Christian’s Kenley Blake had scored a fast-break layup with 34 seconds left to put the Eagles up one, then Troy Christian missed the front end of a one-and-one, only to have Kathryn Lee score a putback to make it a three-point game at 37-34 with 17 seconds on the clock.
But Hess pulled up for three with a pair of hands in her face, sending a high-arcing shot over the defense and straight through the net to tie the score and force overtime.
“She’s an incredible freshman,” Ferraro said of Hess. “She may be the Player of the Year in our league. The first time we played, she scored half their points. We know her talents … but I’m telling you, that was a Steph Curry 3.”
“That was just a great shot,” Lavy said. “(Heading into overtime) I was kind of doubtful after that, but I still knew we could do it if we just put our minds to it.”
And that’s exactly what the Eagles did.
Hess hit a pair of free throws to put Legacy Christian up with 3:01 left in overtime, but Lavy collected a loose ball in the paint and scored the only field goal of the extra period to tie the score with 2:18 remaining. The Knights then missed a pair of free throws, and Lavy converted both of hers with 2:04 remaining.
Three consecutive big stops on defense allowed the Eagles to maintain that 41-39 lead, but Troy Christian missed a pair of free throws with 34 seconds remaining that could have iced the game. Legacy then missed a 3 and Salazar won the battle for the rebound and was fouled with 11 seconds left on the clock.
Salazar missed the first, but she got a friendly bounce on the second and it rolled home at last to make it a three-point game, and Lee came up with a steal on the other end, not ever giving the Knights another shot at a potential game-tying 3 to end the game.
The Eagles were only 8 for 15 from the free throw line in the game, going 5 for 8 in regulation and 3 for 7 during the overtime period.
“I began the night with gray hairs — they’ve turned white,” Ferraro said with a laugh when asked about the free throw shooting. “The bottom line is they put us on the line, we’re the best foul shooting team in the league, and tonight we missed four clutch ones in a row. But, the resolve we have, we came down and said we’re going to stop them defensively even if we miss our foul shots.”
Lavy made five of those free throws on the night, going 5 for 7 herself — including the eventual game-winners.
“You understand that Lauryn is shooting 85 percent from the line on the year coming in. She’s just incredible,” Ferraro said. “At one time this year, she had made 26 in a row. When I called timeout before that play, the play I called was just hand the ball to her, because I know she’s going to come through.”
In addition to Lavy’s 19 points, Blake finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three steals, Lee had six points and seven rebounds, Sarah Earhart had two points and nine rebounds, Jalyn Forrer, Morgan Taylor and Cait Echols each had two points and Cara Salazar had one point and four assists. As a team, the Eagles recorded 14 assists in the game on a total of 17 field goals.
Kathleen Ahner led the Knights with 11 points, Emily Riddle had nine points and five rebounds, Hess finished with eight points, Anne Kensinger had five points and Danielle Matthews and Olivia and Maddy Combs each had two points.
The game featured six ties and nine lead changes, with neither team ever leading by more than four points. It’s the Eagles’ first share of the MBC title since the 2012-13 season, when they shared it with Yellow Springs.
Now Troy Christian will finish the regular season Saturday at Mississinawa Valley before heading to Brookville on Feb. 17 to open sectional tournament play against Tri-County North.
“(Legacy Christian) coach (Mark) Combs does such a fantastic job with his kids, and they have such a solid ballclub that I just feel very fortunate that we can share that title. Winning the league like this is very important to the girls, and now we have to compete in the tournament.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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