BY ANTHONY VENCE email@example.com
A late fourth quarter rally followed by a strong overtime performance led the Clinton Prairie Gophers (6-5) to a 57-50 victory over the Eastern Comets (6-7) during the championship game of the Lady Gopher Holiday Tournament Friday.
The Comets held the lead for most of regulation and were up by 10 points midway through the third quarter. With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Gophers’ junior guard Kayla Pearson hit a 3-pointer, which tied the game at 43.
With 22 seconds left in regulation, Eastern hit a 2-pointer to regain the lead. Pearson was sent to the line with 5.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and hit both free throws, sending the game into overtime.
Clinton Prairie took its first lead since leading 4-2 early in the first quarter after sophomore forward Makayla Franks hit a pair of free throws to open the scoring in overtime.
The Gophers outscored the Comets 12-5 in overtime, taking advantage of their free throw opportunities, to seal the win.
“They showed a lot of heart,” said Gophers’ head coach Jason Haid. “To come in here and play two games back-to-back and to come from behind against a pretty good basketball team in the championship game says a lot about our heart and our character.”
Gophers’ senior guard Mattyson Robison said she was proud of her team’s resiliency in the comeback win against a strong, physical Eastern team (featuring two players more than six feet tall).
“It shows how much we’re willing to fight,” she said. “All that I can say is I’m proud of my teammates for digging in deep and coming out with the win.”
Haid said his team worked all week leading up to the game on blocking out, which was one of the key factors facing a team with such a substantial size advantage.
“We didn’t want to give them second chances because those girls down there, the ball comes off the rim then they can get it and toss it back-and-forth to each other.”
Haid said the play in the high post was another key factor in the win.
“I don’t think we attacked the high post good enough until the second half,” he said. “We got the ball in the high post, and we kind of opened things up for our perimeter players.”
The Gophers and Comets have met in the tournament’s championship game each time since the tournament first began four years ago. The Comets won the tournament the first two years and the Gophers have won the past two times.