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ACAC Championship - Star article

January 16, 2013
By Bob Lapadot of Garrett High School

Garrett’s girls had their chances to build a lead in the first half, with its defensive plan working well against Leo Saturday.

In the second half, the Lions got the lead, and made sure the chances didn’t come for the Railroaders.

Leo protected a slim lead from the middle of the third quarter on, and made the plays it had to have to defeat Garrett 36-33 in yet another classic battle between the two rivals in the championship game of the Allen County Athletic Conference tournament at the Memorial Coliseum.

Leo (13-3) won its second straight title. The Lions and Railroaders have combined for the last six championships in the tourney, and met in the final game Saturday for the fourth time in five years.

The Railroaders used a triangle-and-two defense to limit the top two Leo senior scorers, 6-foot-1 Keanna Gary and Taylor Seiss, who had six and eight points, respectively. Sophomore Jenna Beer stepped up with a team-high 12 points, with Gary snagging 16 rebounds.

The Railroaders (11-5) got all of their points from three players: Brandi Dawson with 12, Kaitlin Wisel with 11 and Taylor Smith with 10. Dawson had 12 reounds. Garrett shot just 10-of-34 for the day. In the second half, the Lions closed off the middle to keep the ball away from the 6-foot Smith, coming off a 22-point game against Heritage in the semifinals. The Railroaders managed to attempt just 13 shots in the second half. After missing several close-in tries in the first half, they couldn’t find their three-point touch, making only 1-of-11, allowing the Lions to keep the middle clogged.

Leo also played keep away, possessing the ball for all but a few seconds of a three-minute span in the fourth quarter. Still, the Lions never led by more than four.

The Railroaders led 20-19 at the half, but went 2-of-8 in the second quarter. Beer, meanwhile, hit two threes to keep the Lions close. “Credit Jenna Beer. She steps up and gets 12,” Garrett coach Bob Lapadot said. “Their two D-I players had 14 combined. You hold a team to 36 points, you’d think you’d have a chance to win the game, but we missed some shots. We executed all day, we just didn’t knock them down.”

“They played great defense. You’ve got to credit what they did. They did a great job taking stuff away. We’ve played five times in a year-and-a-half. I don’t know how either team scores. (Both teams) know everything everybody’s going to do. It’s a battle.”

Leo was ready for that battle, according to coach Carrie Shappell.

“The girls executed. We were very patient,” she said. “This was not a flashy game. It was a defensive game, and when you get in these games, you have to play well and you have to execute.

“I credit Garrett for how well they played. They had a great game plan. But it goes back to the kids — their fight, their mental toughness, their physcial toughness.” Beer drew her fourth foul late in the third quarter. After Wisel made both free throws, Leo held the ball for the final 1:11, with Toby Carman’s putback at the buzzer giving the Lions a 29-25 lead at the turn for home.

Carman again put Leo four early in the fourth, and more of the same followed. Leo took timeout with 6:48 left, and accept for a quick flurry in which Wisel stole the ball for Garrett and Millie Adams stole in back for Leo, the Lions forced Garrett to come out of its special defense.

“We’re behind. We’ve got Becca Oliver on Gary giving up four inches,” Lapadot said. “We can’t just come out and play man. We had a couple chances (to score) late, and it would have worked out perfectly. There comes a point where you’re just going to have to assume you’re going to start scoring points.” Dawson’s inside move got Garrett within 31-30, but Gary answered with her only field goal, a stickback with 1:25 left. Wisel then hit the first of two free throws, but the Railroaders put Seiss at the line, and she converted a bonus fo a 35-31 lead with 11.5 seconds to play.

Dawson put back her own miss with sixth-tenths of a second on the clock, and Garett called timeout, then fouled Seiss before the ball was inbounded. This time, the southpaw made only the first of two, setting up a bizarre finish.

Emily Somers rebounded the miss, and Lapadot signalled for a quick timeout, with the whistle clearly beating the horn as the clock ran out.

Three-tenths of a second were put back on the clock, and Somers tried a long pass from under the Garrett basket. It went out of bounds untouched, but the clock was started and the horn went off again.

The errant starting of the clock made it a jump ball, and the arrow favored Garrett, which got one more chance. This time the ball was tipped by Leo near midcourt, and the Lions finally had their win. “This is a huge for us,” Shappell said. “This was one of our goals. I’m excited for this group of girls. I thank God I have this group of girls to coach.”

Garrett started the season full of uncertainty, but had won nine straight before Saturday after a rough beginning.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Lapadot said. “The last two years, people wondered where this program would go. We’re right back to the championship level where we’ve been.

“We didn’t win them all before, but we always thought of each one we got to as a learning process. You’ve got get to this one to be ready for the sectional, to be ready for this tournament next year.”

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