WATERFORD MILLS – It felt like one would fall, it had to. Fortunately for Lakewood Park Christian, three shots in the final 14 seconds by Lakeland Christian Academy didn’t fall. The scoreboard remained on 41-38, which was the final score of the Bethany Christian Girls Basketball Sectional championship game Saturday night.
LCA had three open looks at a tying three in the final seconds, and if given the chance, might still be shooting trying to make one fall. LPC’s Hadyn Faur calmly sank two free throws with 27.2 seconds left to give LPC the three-point lead, and after a tipped shot off the hands of Hope Fancil fell out of bounds, LCA got the ball back with one last chance.
Tori Calizo had the first open look, which rattled away, but back to LCA and again to Calizo, who missed the second try, LCA again getting the offensive rebound. Swinging to Fancil, the team’s far and away best scorer, the Mennolands all seemed to hold its collective breath when Fancil’s open chance went towards goal. As her final shot clanked away, LPC’s Gracyn Fetters ran away with the ball as the horn sounded, sending the Panthers to its first-ever sectional title.
“They put their hearts on the floor,” said LCA head coach Allison Kauffman. “They gave 100 percent effort the whole time, even at the end when I said it was gutcheck time, and we ran full-court press on the floor. Their desire and heart was there and that’s what kept us in the game.
“Executing down the road, we executed some plays and we gave ourselves three shots to tie it up at the end because we told them exactly what they had to do. They really did a good job giving us a chance to win that game.”
LPC never trailed in the fourth quarter, but did trail for much of the second quarter as LCA opened a 22-17 advantage after a Calizo bucket. A 14-6 LPC bulge in the third quarter included a miraculous and-one by Chloe Jolloff, who drove the lane and blindly flipped the ball at the backboard as she was fouled, which banked perfectly in for the hoop plus the harm. A three from Faur was a first dagger, putting the Panthers up 33-28 heading to the fourth.
Fancil got LCA within one at 39-38 with a bucket, and picked up a steal on the inbounds, but LCA couldn’t make the extra possession count.
The senior finished her final game with 14 points and Calizo ended with 12 points to lead LCA. In a game that saw both teams combine to make just one solitary substitution the entire night, LPC had all six players score. Faur and Fetters each had 10 points, Jolloff with nine points and Rebekah Priskorn with eight points.
LPC celebrates its first-ever sectional with a 17-5 season record and will prepare for a Caston Regional game next Saturday against No. 12 North White (19-4), which defeated South Newton 34-22. In the other game at Caston, No. 14 Oregon-Davis (13-12) will meet No. 1 Marquette Catholic (23-2).
LCA wraps up its season 16-9, playing in its first-ever sectional championship game and finishing with the most wins in program history.
“They helped get us here and we are super thankful for them,” Kauffman said of her three seniors in Fancil, Jess Slone and Brady Gross. “All of the time and effort they have put into the program. We are losing three big ones next year. Jess and Brady on the inside are always scrappy on rebounding and will put up a fight with any post, and Hope in the way she can score, they are three great girls and their attitude and effort and the way the led the team and kept them positive and encouraged. We are really going to miss them next year.”