West Holmes Girls Basketball

A near miss, a great spread offense and Alexander’s heroics led to a 3OT win for Lady Knights

Alicia Alexander's huge late-game plays lead to a 3OT win for Lady Knights

As the final horn sounded for regulation when West Holmes Lady Knights hosted Ohio Cardinal Conference rival the Mt. Vernon Yellowjackets on Thursday, Dec. 27 at The Dungeon, Macee Marcum’s shot bounced, rattled and rolled along the rim. It flitted along, seemingly in slow motion as everyone in the gym seemed to hold their collective breath.

As if it was taunting the fans, the ball lazily clung on the rim before falling off, failing to break the 50-50 tie and sending the game into overtime, where it would take three more sessions of four minutes apiece for the Lady Knights to emerge a 65-59 winner.

“I think Macee’s shot at the end did everything but go in the basket,” Mt. Vernon head coach Doug Savage said. “She really made a nice move to get herself open in the paint, and she did everything right. It just didn’t fall.”

Because of that, fans were treated to three brutally intense overtimes that created quite an epic ending to a hard-fought game.

“We saw some real positives with the way we handled their pressure down the stretch,” West Holmes head coach Lindsy Snyder said. “Our kids remained composed when there was a lot going on, so I am excited about what we saw there. That was a lot to process, and we did a nice job communicating to create a collective win.”

There were a number of times throughout regulation where it felt like West Holmes (5-3/3-1 in OCC play) might turn it on and seize control of the game. Taylor Miller scored inside, and Regan Wilcox hit a 3-pointer to begin the early scoring, but three times the Yellowjackets (1-9/1-3) went inside to Celina Fritsch to take a 6-5 edge. The Lady Knights then got hot with Miller scoring four more and Katie Sprang knocking down a jumper for an 11-6 lead. The lead stayed at six on a Miller free throw, but it was then that Layne Lepley stepped up her game and became a significant factor, drilling a trey to trim the West Holmes lead through one quarter to 16-13.

Lepley would get Mt. Vernon back to within one at 18-17 with a pair of scores on drives, but again West Holmes would surge ahead 25-18 on two lobs inside to Wilcox, a Katrina Rolince triple and a Rolince steal that set up a score.

Once again on the precipice of taking control, West Holmes would fail to stop Mt. Vernon’s backdoor passing game, and the Lady Knights took a 27-24 lead into the half.

In the third period a six-point WHHS lead would evaporate quickly and turn into a 36-33 Mt. Vernon advantage with Lepley scoring nine straight points in that span.

It was then West Holmes picked it up a couple of notches with its full-court press. Sprang would make a steal and connect on two free throws and would add a score off another steal on the inbound play. West Holmes’ double-teaming pressure also led to two quick Wilcox buckets, and just like that, the Lady Knights were back in command 41-36 at the end of three quarters.

Sprang quickly knocked down a jumper to begin the fourth quarter to give her team a 43-36 lead, and once again the Lady Knights found themselves on the verge of taking command.

Instead it would all come tumbling down, and led by Lepley and Marcum, the Yellowjackets would go on a 12-0 run to take a 48-43 lead with three minutes to play.

After Snyder called a much-needed time-out, West Holmes went to work, chopping into the deficit. Sprang knocked down a jumper in the lane with 2:05 to play. After a Rolince steal, Miller scored on a put-back to draw to within one at 48-47 with 1:11 left. Lepley produced a pair of free throws, but with 44 seconds left, Wilcox stepped into a huge 3-pointer to knot things at 50, setting the stage for Marcum’s roller coaster last-second shot.

“If we had played as hard for the entire game as we did when we pressed or absolutely had to have a score and played with the passion and energy we did in the three overtimes in regulation, that game doesn’t go into three overtimes. But we waited and just kind of existed until the overtimes. Hopefully it is something that we can learn from because our effort and execution in the overtimes was terrific.”

Once into the first overtime, each team split free throws to make it 51-51. West Holmes would then pass and dribble nearly two minutes off of the clock, getting into a set play that found Sprang on the right wing. The sophomore’s jumper found the mark for a 53-51 WHHS lead. Not to be outdone, Lepley proved her mettle when she took a pass on the left wing with three seconds left, drove around Sprang and lifted up a lay-up that went in just as time expired, tying the score at 53.

“Layne is just a gamer,” Savage said. “There were times when she carried us tonight, but I am extremely proud of all of our girls’ effort. If we keep playing like this, we are going to win a lot of games.”

However, the focus as the second overtime period began was this game, and Rolince got the party started by drilling a trey to make it 56-53. Lepley scored on a put-back, and McKenna Brokaw split two free throws to even the game again at 56. Sprang hit from in the lane with under two minute to play, but Lepley answered, and West Holmes ran another 1:40 seconds off the clock before Wilcox’s great look from the corner skipped out.

Enter the third overtime period, where a Rolince steal opened the door for Sprang’s lay-up for a 60-58 Lady Knights advantage. In the press Sprang committed her fifth foul and was replaced by Paige Race, who had to come in and handle the ball after having sat for all of the first two overtime periods.

“Our ball-handling was excellent, and I thought the girls found a way to win the game,” Snyder said. “Those five kids we had on the floor played the majority of the fourth quarter and all of the overtimes, so for Paige to step in cold and perform was awesome. She wants to be in those types of situations, so that was huge for her to go in and make plays after sitting forever.”

With 1:57 to play, Savvy Blubaugh split two free throws to make it 60-59. Again, West Holmes went into its stall game as Alicia Alexander, Wilcox, Miller, Rolince and Race played keepaway. Mt. Vernon eventually forced the Lady Knights into a turnover but failed to take advantage when Alexander stepped in and came away with a huge steal.

“She just makes plays,” Snyder said of Alexander. “We can draw up all of the Xs and Os, but sometimes it is just kids stepping up, playing hard and making plays. Lish [Alexander] does that, and she has fun doing it.”

Quiet for much of the game, Alexander, who has a penchant for making key plays, made one here with 49 seconds to play. West Holmes carved off another 30 seconds until Alexander was fouled. She split two free throws to put the Lady Knights up 61-59. However, on the miss of her second free throw, Wilcox soared and picked off the rebound and was promptly fouled. She calmly walked to the line and hammered home both attempts for a four-point advantage. Now needing a score, Mt. Vernon had that chance squelched when Alexander again read a pass to perfection, anticipated it and stepped in for a steal. She was fouled with eight seconds left and stepped up and delivered both free throws to put the game away.

“That was great basketball,” Savage said after the game. “It may not have been LeBron James out there playing, but that was the way high school basketball was meant to be played. Both teams were out there giving it their all. There was a lot of great plays and high tension and a fantastic finish. Our girls were upset after the game, but I told them they had no reason to hang their heads. We gave it everything we had.”

In the end it was West Holmes’ inside game that proved to be the difference-maker. The Lady Knights grabbed 24 offensive rebounds and turned them into points. The senior trio of Wilcox, Miller and Charolette Brown hauled down 16 offensive boards. Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets got into the double bonus early in the fourth period and paraded to the charity stripe and also added a number of steals and turnovers that they weren’t able to convert. Mt. Vernon went 14-of-22 from the stripe but in the overtimes managed to make just 3-of-7 free throws.

“We have that mind-set to get after the rebounds, but Taylor especially is very active inside,” Snyder said.

Lepley produced an outstanding game, pouring in a game-high 32 points, while Marcum added 11. The Lady Knights got a balanced scoring attack, led by Wilcox with 22. Sprang knocked down 18, Miller tacked on a dozen, Rolince scored six and Brown added four. Alexander scored just three, but they came at a most opportune time.

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