If coaches, players, and fans were sensing a bit of déjà vu, it’s probably because they had seen a very similar game about one month earlier. The St. Vincent and Valle Catholic girls went into overtime in their lone regular matchup in early January, which was a victory for the Indians.
They played again on Wednesday, this time with much higher stakes, but the result remained the same.
Valle Catholic rallied late in the fourth quarter, but St. Vincent dominated in the overtime to claim a 52-47 victory in the Class 2, District 3 semifinal at St. Vincent High School.
The win cemented the Indians’ third consecutive trip to the district championship game, which St. Vincent coach Mel Kirn said is no small feat.
“We have some good girls over the course of time,” he said. “Out of our nine losses, we have played five tough teams and I think that has helped us get to this point. We get to keep playing and that’s all I can ask for.”
St. Vincent senior Mary Schwartz led the Indians with 16 points, while Addie Cates chipped in 12 points and Reese Barber added nine. Hannah Fowler, who had 18 points, paced Valle Catholic.
Lola Dauster forced a steal, which turned onto a lay-up for St. Vincent senior Genevieve Lipe and a 45-37 lead with 4:45 left in regulation. That was the last points for the Indians in the final quarter and Valle took advantage.
Fowler and Emma Christine, who had 12 points for the Warriors, scored back-to-back baskets to get Valle within 45-41 with 3 minutes remaining. Sam Loida hit two clutch free throws with 1:15 left to pull with two points. To preserve time on the clock the Warriors were forced to foul and did so on two occasions in the final minute. The Indians missed the front end of a pair of 1-and-1 situations, the biggest coming with 30 seconds left in regulation. Christine got behind the St. Vincent defense and scored with 12 seconds to force the extra period, tied at 45 apiece.
“Games like that give me more gray hair,” Kirn said. “But it was a heck of a game where either of us could have won it. I thought we were composed and played well in the overtime period.”
Schwartz swished a corner three on the first possession of the overtime, which set the course for the rest of the game.
“That was as big of a shot as we’ve had all year, from that moment on it just pumped us up, Kirn said. “Mary hit several big shots over the course of the game when we needed them and led us on the offensive side for much of the night.”
Valle had five turnovers in extra frame, and 24 for the game. The Warriors scored their only basket after regulation with 15 seconds remaining.
“We kind of let the game get away from us in the fourth quarter, but I told the girls that the fourth quarter was over and we just had to play a complete four minutes of basketball and that’s what we did.”
Valle threw the first blow to open the game as they forced the Indians into seven first quarter turnovers and the Indians were quickly down 7-2 in the first four minutes of the contest.
The Indians took over from there.
Schwartz started to get hot from the field as she swished a three and converted a steal into points to knot the game at 7-7. Lipe found Barber after a steal to give St. Vincent its first lead of the game at 9-7. From the point where Valle Catholic led 7-2 until halftime, St. Vincent went on a 21-6 run over the next 12 minutes and led 23-13 at the break.
“We had contributions from everyone. Mary hit some big shots to get us started and Lacey Best made a couple buckets in the second quarter, Kirn said. “That was a good stretch of basketball for us. But you knew that Valle would make a run of some kind.”
The lead grew to as many as 13 points in the third quarter when senior Hannah Riney scored off an inbounds pass to widen the St. Vincent advantage to 29-16 with 4:20 left in the quarter.
Valle proceeded to go on a 16-5 run the remainder of the quarter as Loida capped it with a basket from the corner as St. Vincent led 34-32 heading into the final quarter.
The victory sets up a contest with Oran (14-3) in the district title game on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Oran High School. The Eagles defeated Meadow Heights 52-16 on Wednesday in the other semifinal. Oran has faced St. Vincent in the last two district title games and has won both meetings, including 61-32 in last year’s encounter.
Kirn doesn’t know too much about this year’s Oran squad, but understands they are probably the class of the district and will be a tough matchup.
“They have a good team, and it’s going to take a super effort from us to win,” Kirn said. “There’s a lot of times people don’t give you a chance, but there are a lot of things that can happen.”