Bailey Mitchell, taking her first attempt of the night, missed on the front end of a one-and-one.
But, Mitchell rebounded with the biggest defensive play of the night, intercepting a Mansfield St. Peter's pass, sealing a 49-47 win for the Trojans in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Shelby High School on Tuesday.
The Trojans improved to 10-11 overall and advanced to a third meeting against St. Paul (16-6) at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday in the sectional championship game back at Shelby.
"(Sydney) Cavanaugh is a good player and a strong player," said South Central coach John Vogel of the St. Pete's senior. "With less than two seconds on the clock, we knew they were probably going to try to get it to her off of some sort of screen where she can be running toward her basket. We also had a foul to give."
It looked like South Central was on its way to a comfortable win, as the Trojans had turned a tie score after three quarters into a 47-34 lead with 3:26 left. But, despite taking care of the ball through three quarters, South Central found itself unable to corral the ball as the Spartans (10-12) kicked up the pressure.
Meanwhile, St. Pete's seemingly could not miss offensively. 10 straight points by the Spartans, capped on a 3 from the top of the arc by Julia Rizzo, cut the Trojans' lead to 47-44 with 39 seconds left.
"We basically had a bunch of turnovers," Vogel said. "We had some late, questionable calls, but the end result was we went down the floor five straight times and did not get a shot off. St. Pete's made shots late in the game and that got them some momentum and got them going."
Holly Hale was fouled with 33.8 seconds left and connected on both free throws.
"Holly Hale hit two really big free throws down the stretch that got us over the top," Vogel said. "If she does not make those free throws, it is a one-possession game and anything can happen."
But, St. Pete's did not go away. Jersey Heffley hit a 3 and the Trojans called timeout with 7.2 seconds left. Mitchel's miss left the door open for the Spartans, but South Central wisely used one of the two fouls it had to give, leaving just 1.9 seconds left on the clock. After a timeout by the Trojans, Mitchell stepped in front of the inbounds pass by Aliya Mitchell and held on as the time expired.
"We were trying to go long," St. Pete's coach Todd Perdas said. "We were setting a back screen for (Cavanaugh). We did not figure that would be open."
After just seven turnovers through three quarters, the Spartans committed nine turnovers in the final eight minutes alone.
"We have struggled taking care of the ball," Perdas said. "We have been on the girls about taking care of the ball. South Central did some things and took the ball out of our best players' hands."
After scoring just five points in the third quarter, South Central's offense exploded early in the fourth quarter. Ellery McKee made two free throws before a steal by Ashley Coppus led to a bucket for Courtney Shepherd off of an offensive rebound. After a St. Pete's timeout, Mitchel hit her third 3 of the game and Coppus scored off of a steal for a 41-32 lead.
"It was a tie ballgame at the end of the third quarter," Vogel said. "We came out and jumped on them right away in the fourth quarter. It looked like we were going to put them away."
Shepherd hit a short jumper, McKee made two free throws, and Alley Burton added a layup as South Central scored eight straight points in the first quarter. However, Rizzo scored on a putback and Cavanaugh hit a 3 to give the Spartans a 11-10 lead after eight minutes.
Hale opened the second quarter with a layup to give the Trojans the lead - one they would never reliniquish. Later, South Central pushed the lead to as many as six points when Hale scored, but a score from Mitchell and another 3 from Cavanaugh drew the Spartans within 27-26 at halftime.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter. Neither team scored until Shepherd scored on a turn-around jumper with 3:45 lwft in the quarter. Mitchel added a triple from the left side, but St. Pete's ended the final 2:51 of the quarter on a 6-0 run, tying the game at 32 after three quarters.
Hale led the Trojans with 12 points while McKee added 10 points. Mitchel had nine points and Shepherd tallied eight points and nine rebounds.
"We do not really have that player that is going to go out and score 15 or 17 points a night," Vogel said. "That makes it hard to defend because you can not just defend one of our players because we are so balanced."
Rizzo topped St. Pete's with 13 points. Cavanaugh scored 11 points, but just two points came in the second half.
"If she is not scoring, she is making other kids for them score," Vogel said. "We tried to take something away from them offensively and we thought we would start with her. She is a great, great perimeter shooter. If she gets going, look out."
St. Paul defeated South Central twice this season — 45-24 on Jan. 5 and 48-41 last week (Feb. 14).
"We shot very poorly the first time up at St. Paul," Vogel said. "The second game was tied after the third quarter. We just want to be mentally prepared to not have a letdown. We want it to be a tight game."
SOUTH CENTRAL (10-11)
Bailey Mitchel 3-0—9, Holly Hale 4-4—12, Ellery McKee 1-8—10, Courtney Shepherd 4-0—8, Alley Burton 2-0—4, Ashley Coppus 3-0—6. TOTALS 17-12—49.
MANSFIELD ST. PETER'S (10-12)
Sydney Newton 1-0—2, Julia Rizzo 3-5—13, Jersey Heffley 4-0—10, Ahmani Mitchell 1-0—2, Sydney Cavanaugh 4-0—11, Sophie Tridico 2-0—5, Aliya Mitchell 2-0—4. TOTALS 17-5—47.
So. Central 10 17 5 17 — 49
St. Peter’s 11 15 6 15 — 47
3-point FGs: (SC) Mitchell 3; (SP) Cavanaugh 3, Heffley 2, Rizzo 2, Tridico
Willard 71, Columbian 43
WILLARD — The Crimson Flashes won their 13th straight game in dominant fashion on Tuesday, blasting visiting Columbian by 28 points in a non-league matchup.
For Willard, Brevon Polachek led a balanced scoring attack with 19 points. Jerett Sowers scored 11, while Terry Baldridge and Cooper Parrott each scored 10 points, and Davon Triplett added nine.
Willard (18-3, 9-2) closes out the regular season on Friday at Huron (10-9, 7-4) with a chance to earn a share of the SBC Bay Division championship.
Frackhauser 2-0—6; Brockington 3-0—6; Reaves 2-5—9; Burns 2-0—4; Moore 1-0—2; Zimmerman 3-0—6; Myers 1-0—2; Smith 3-1—8.
Jerett Sowers 4-1—11; Brevon Polachek 8-2—19; Terry Baldridge 4-2—10; Austin Adelman 1-0—3; Myles Pinkston 1-0—2; Trey Paxton 1-0—2; Joey Holida 2-0—5; Davon Triplett 4-1—9; Cooper Parrott 5-0—10. TOTALS 30-6—71.
Columbian 6 11 7 19 — 43
Willard 21 13 21 16 — 71
3-point FGs: (W) Sowers 2, Polachek, Adelman, Holida
E. Christian 55, Monroeville 50
MONROEVILLE — The Eagles fell behind by eight points in the first half and were unable to rally in the second half of Tuesday’s non-league loss to the Warriors.
For Monroeville (7-14), Isaac Roeder scored 17 points, while both Chayce Schaub and Mason Tonelli hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points each.
Monroeville closes out the regular season on Friday at Western Reserve (15-4).
EMMANUEL CHRISTIAN (9-11)
Caden Williams 6-2—16; Dannie Young 2-0—5; Jailon Walker 5-3—17; Bryce Whitlow 1-0—3; Jacob Quinlivan 1-0—3; Mason Frigsner 2-1—5; Anthony Ellis 2-0—4. TOTALS 21-6—55.
Trevor Schafer 1-0—2; Cody Schaffer 2-0—5; Chayce Schaub 4-0—11; Isaac Roeder 8-1—17; Mason Tonelli 4-0—11; Gunner Howell 1-0—2; Eli Sweet 1-0—2. TOTALS 21-1—50.
E. Christian 13 18 11 13 — 55
Monroeville 10 13 13 14 — 50
3-point FGs: (M) Schaub 3, Tonelli 3, Schaffer