Mendy McNeese personified North Greene’s refuse to lose attitude.
The North Greene senior guard scored two baskets in the final 18 seconds of regulation to keep her team alive against Cloudland.
Her 3-pointer to start overtime then spurred the Lady Huskies to a 60-53 victory over the Lady ’Landers in Monday’s District 1-A girls’ basketball championship at Science Hill.
“We’ve come a long ways this season,” said McNeese, who capped off the game with a pair of free throws at the end of overtime. “You’re going to give it everything you’ve got. I started getting in the groove and we came together at the end.”
The Lady Huskies improved to 23-8 with the win and the Lady ‘Landers fell to 19-11 with the loss.
Down by three points, McNeese drove the lane to cut Cloudland’s to 49-48 with 18 seconds left in regulation. After Martina Presnell hit a free throw for the Lady ‘Landers, McNeese got control of a loose ball and put the tying score through the net with three seconds to go.
“I knew we needed a bucket,” she said. “It was a crucial possession and I thought, ‘It’s do or die right here.’ Thank the Lord, he let me make that basket. I’m grateful for that.”
It was ironic the final pair of scores came inside the paint. For the night, North Greene filled it up with 11 shots behind the 3-point line.
Tournament MVP Laiken Morrow made five shots behind the arc in an 18-point effort and McNeese hit four 3-pointers among her game-high 24 points.
North Greene was red-hot from the field in the first half, even 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Yet, the Lady Huskies held just a 27-26 lead at the half.
Once the shooting cooled down, Cloudland grabbed a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until the end of regulation.
Courtney Wilson had 16 points to lead the Lady ‘Landers in scoring, while Brooke Rhodes had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
In the fourth quarter, it was a time of missed opportunities as the Lady ‘Landers lost an eight-point lead, and then missed a wide-open lay-up with 30 seconds to go which would have given them a five-point lead.
“Similar to the game we played (against them) at home, it came down to being more discliplined,” Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. “You have to make free throws and easy ones down the stretch. We had our chance before it ever went into overtime. I felt we did a good job of milking the clock and keeping in our hands, but we have to make the free throws and lay-ups.”
Up 39-30 in the third quarter, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 19-2 run, which included the first 13 points of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs (24-8), were playing without leading scorer Dorothy Dugger, who injured her knee early in the fourth quarter of their semifinal game with North Greene.
They didn’t miss a beat as four players hit double figures led by Danielle Guinn with 14 points and eight rebounds. Kim Swearingen, playing in Dugger’s spot, scored 13 points, while Alexis Bowers and Monica Olvera each scored 12 points.
“I’m proud of our team because they responded well,” Hampton head coach Leon Tolley said. “They played for Dorothy, and they played for each other. I told them before the game that tonight’s effort would tell if they were ready for the season to end. I don’t think they’re ready for it to end.”
Alicia Colbaugh and Brandi Ensor each had 10 points to lead the Lady Rangers (13-17). After pushing Cloudland to the limit in a 34-33 loss on Saturday, head coach Wes Wright said his team looked a half-step slow against Hampton.
“We just looked slow. It was like we had tired legs and they were fresh,” he said. “We were slow on everything, offensively and defensively. Then, the shots that went in Friday and Saturday just don’t go in tonight.”