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VANDALIA – A freshman made the first overtime basket, but it was the senior class that finished out the extra period and gave Vandalia the victory.
Freshman Karlie Bright had an open drive to the basket 10 seconds into the overtime period against South Central Conference rival Roxana last Thursday, and seniors Morgan Whightsil and Amber Bruno made 7-of-10 free throws in the final 1:17 of a 66-56 victory on senior night.
“I wanted to give our seniors a chance to make those free throws, and I expected them to make them,” said coach Michelle McNary.
Abby Dugan and Haley Cothern were also on the floor in the extra period, and those four were freshman the first season that McNary was the head coach.
“They are a fun group of girls,” McNary said. “Their personalities are great, and they like to have fun – sometimes too much fun.
“I’ll hate to see them go, but they are all great kids, and have a lot to look forward to.”
After catching the tip in overtime, Bright came three-quarters of the way up the court, and found an open lane to the basket to break a tie at 52, using a shot fake in the paint to secure the layup.
Her basket was key for the Lady Vandals (8-16, 2-6 SCC), who used a 7-0 run at the start of overtime to establish a lead in the team’s fourth overtime game of the season.
“She got the first step on the defender, and Kaitlyn (Kershaw) was sealing a girl to give Karlie the lane,” McNary said. “Karlie is a tough kid who made up her mind to go, and she finished the basket inside.”
Bruno followed with a 3-pointer, her sixth of the game, and on the next possession, Kershaw received a perfect pass from junior Morgan Cripe and made a layup.
The play was identical to the one that tied the game at 52 with 2:04 left in regulation.
“Those two work so well together that they beg to be in together,” McNary said. “Morgan made a move, Kaitlyn cut underneath her girl to get wide open and put the shot in.”
Cripe had her best game of the season, recording a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while adding three assists and a team-high four steals.
Bruno led in scoring with 29 points – her second-highest total of the season – and had five rebounds. Nineteen of her points came in the first half.
“She had a great game,” McNary said. “She kept us in the game in the first half by hitting all of those 3s.
“She’s had a great season, and I don’t think we would be winning games without her right now,” she said. “It’s been the best season that she has had.”
The Lady Vandals actually trailed for much of the game, briefly holding leads in each quarter before taking off in overtime.
After going ahead 7-2 early in the game, Roxana rallied back to take a 19-14 lead at the end of the first period.
A 3-pointer from Anna Whitaker with 6:02 left in the second quarter put Vandalia behind by seven, but after that, the Lady Vandal offense clicked.
Vandalia finished the period on a 15-11 run, and the 21 total points in the quarter were the most since Jan. 7.
More importantly, the Lady Vandals didn’t commit any turnovers in the period, while scoring six points off of two Roxana miscues. Both of those 3-pointers also came on second chances.
“They were putting a lot of pressure on us, so I am proud of the girls for not turning the ball over,” McNary said. “Then, we worked the ball better, and knocked down some good shots.”
At one point in the period, Vandalia scored on six straight possessions as part of a 16-2 run that put the Lady Vandals ahead with 2:20 left in the first half, but Roxana made three 3-pointers in the final 2:03 to regain the lead.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second half, the largest margin going to Roxana with 2:45 left in the game.
Cripe made a pair of free throws on the next possession – after grabbing two offensive rebounds – and stole the ball two seconds later to set up her pass to Kershaw.
Roxana seemed content to run a 2:04 possession following that, but Vandalia’s defense stayed patient and eventually forced Roxana into a bad shot.
Freshman Madelyn Hosick had a chance to give the Lady Vandals a lead with bonus free throws with 21.7 seconds left, but she missed the front end.
She saved the game on defense, however, blocking a second-chance shot with a second left to force overtime.
“We needed a win, no matter who it was against,” McNary said. “Hopefully, it gives us some confidence in the next couple of games.
“If we play like we did tonight, we can get some wins going into the regional.”
Thursday, Jan. 24
Points: Bruno, 29; Cripe, 10; Whightsil, 7; Bright, 6; Cothern, 6; Kershaw, 5; Hosick, 3.
Rebounds: Cripe, 11; Whightsil, 6; Bruno, 5; Hosick, 4; Kershaw, 4; Bright, 3; Makayla Tinker, 2; Team, 2; Dugan, 1.
Assists: Hosick, 5; Bruno, 3; Cripe, 3; Whightsil, 2; Dugan, 1; Kershaw, 1; Tinker, 1.
Steals: Cripe, 4; Bruno, 2; Dugan, 1.
Blocks: Hosick, 1.
Record: 9-16 (2-6 SCC)
On Monday, the Lady Vandals couldn't parlay the senior night momentum into another win, losing 59-49 at Flora.
Senior Amber Bruno led in scoring with 20 points, though she made just 4-of-24 field goals and 8-of-14 free throws. All of her field goals were 3-pointers.
Junior Morgan Cripe tied her season-high with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and tied for the team lead with three steals.
The Lady Vandals trailed by 12 at halftime and by 16 going to the final eight minutes.
Vandalia (9-17) put in 20 points in the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game.
Monday, Jan. 28
Points: Bruno, 20; Cripe, 13; Karlie Bright, 6; Makayla Tinker, 6; Madelyn Hosick, 2; Kaitlyn Kershaw, 2.
Rebounds: Bruno, 5; Bright, 4; Cripe, 4; Hosick, 4; Tinker, 3; Abby Dugan, 1; Kershaw, 1; Morgan Whightsil, 1.
Assists: Hosick, 2; Tinker, 2; Bright, 1; Bruno, 1; Cripe, 1.
Steals: Bright, 3; Cripe, 3; Hosick, 2; Tinker, 1.
Blocks: Tinker, 2.
On Thursday, Vandalia will close the regular season at Carlinville.
The Lady Vandals are the No. 4 seed in the Class 2A Cumberland Regional, and will face No. 5 Cumberland at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at Cumberland High School.
Vandalia defeated the Lady Pirates, 77-38, on Dec. 28 at the Mattoon Tournament. The winner of that game faces top-seeded Teutopolis on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Senior Amber Bruno will be looking to begin a return trip to state in the 3-point showdown.