It was a different sort of thing that reminds one of something Yogi Berra, the great Yankee catcher once said. “It ain’t over until it’s over.”
Pulaski County looked in control for much of the game Friday at home against Patrick Henry, but then they weren’t. It looked like PH was going to win, but it didn’t. Then it looked like the Cougars had won, but they didn’t. Then with maybe the best free throw shooter around at the line with the opportunity to win after making eight straight she missed, and PH didn’t win again. Then it was on to overtime and this time there was no doubt. Pulaski County 87, PH 78 in a game likely between the two best girls teams in this region of the state.
There were many high spots, turning points, and clutch plays down the stretch and pointing those out would seem to be the best way to explain a game that ebbed and flowed as the two teams battled.
PH led 46-44 after a big third quarter, outscoring Pulaski Co. 21-12. Savannah Deery dominated on her way to 21 points. But she did not play the final eight minutes after fouling out, just one of many crucial aspects of the game.
An inside basket by Mahagony Gunn put the Patriots up, 66-59 with 2:37 left to play, their biggest lead. With 1:22 left Alaina Akers hit a big three point shot for the Cougars and it was 67-64. With 54.7 left Keslyn Secrist who was big all night for the Cougars drilled a big three out of the deep corner and it was 69-67. With 34.4 left Taryn Blankenship floated one home from the paint to cut the lead to two again, 71-69. With just 20.4 left to play Blankenship dropped in another bucket and it was 73-71.
Then with 16.4 left against heavy defensive pressure PH turned the ball over in the backcourt. Erin Russell was fouled, but she missed both shots, but the ball was kicked out to the perimeter and Keslyn Secrist fired from three for the win, but it bounced off the iron, but off the backside came Ally Fleener, and she stuck the rebound back in the basket and was fouled with just .01 left to play. Fleener hit the free throw for what looked like a 74-73 Cougar victory, but the Pulaski County players rushed the court to celebrate and were called for a team technical foul because of that scant .01 left on the clock. Shelby Fiddler who was 11 of 15 from the free throw line for the game and had hit eight straight, missed the second technical free throw and the teams went to overtime tied at 74.
Keslyn Secrist put eight big points on the board, was six of six from the free throw line, and Fleenor worked the backboards in addion to making a superb pass off the post down to Secrist for a basket. The Cougars hit nine free throws to go along with buckets by Erin Russell and Secrist to win going away to end a long but satisfying night, and come away with a huge victory.
Pulaski Co. moves to 13-5 on the season with its second outstanding win over PH. The Cougars won by one on the road over the Patriots earlier in the season. PH drops to 13-5 and lost just three days after beating Hidden Valley, 80-19. PCHS led after the first quarter 17-11, and 32-25 at the half.
When asked it he remembered ever being involved in a game like that before, PCHS coach Brad Sutphin said, “No, I really don’t believe I have. I can’t remember anything at all like this. We’re very fortunate. PH is a really good team. They’ve got talent. To win like this you have to get fortunate. We should have won in regulation and gosh the girls played clutch down the stretch, maybe the best we did the whole game. Ally got the rebound, stuck it back in, then hit the free throw, and the girls were just excited and ran on the floor, and we got the technical. But then I was shocked when Fiddler missed that last free throw, so maybe this was supposed to end this way,” smiled Sutphin.
But the coach was proud of his team. “It didn’t look so good for a while there, we’re hit and make it close, but they would match us, but the kids didn’t quit. I think our team showed some guts out there tonight. We had some players obviously have good games, but we had different girls make clutch plays, and shots if we don’t make ’em, we don’t win. I feel very fortunate, but maybe this is the type game that toughens you up for what’s ahead, but I’m really proud of the girls,” said Sutphin.
Pulaski Co. hit 25 of 55 shots, 45.5%, and 32 of 51 free throws, easily the most free throws attempted in a game this season. PH hit 24 of 56 shots from the field, 42.6%, and 22 of 33 free throws. Much of the difference in the number of free throws was style of play. The Cougar girls tried hard to drive the ball to the basket, PH spent more time scoring on the peremeter, but the big difference came in overtime when PH connected on only one shot, was forced to foul, and the Cougars toed the charity stripe 12 times over the four extra minutes.
The Secrist sisters had a big night for the Cougars. Keslyn was seven of 10 from the field and six of seven from the free throw line for a team high 22 points. She hit two 3’s. Kassidy hit three of five shots for seven points and one 3. Fleenor was four of 11 from the field, and nine of 12 from the line for 17 points. Maddie Ratcliff hit seven of 10 free throws on her way to 11 points, and Blankenship was four of five and two of three for 10. Alaina Akers and Courtney Cregger both scored six, Russel five, and Paige Huff four.
Fiddler led PH with a game high 28 points on six of 16 shooting from the field, five of them 3s, and 11 of 15 free throws. Deery finished with 21 for the game. Mo Wright and Gunn both scored 12.
By Dan Callahan, The Patriot