High School Sports
Sears' two free throws lift Paoli girls past Eastern in 2 OTs
February 12, 2012Winners Choice Sports
PEKIN, IND. — The Paoli girls’ basketball team is headed back home — home to play in the Class 2-A Paoli Regional on Saturday.
Paoli junior Sophia Sears hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the second overtime to lift the Rams past Eastern Pekin 41-40 Saturday night in the finals of the Eastern Pekin Sectional.
Paoli (18-6) won its second sectional and first since 1980, when the Rams also won the regional.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Paoli coach Dusty Cole. “We’ll enjoy it the rest of the weekend. We’ll come in Monday and get to work.”
Paoli should have plenty to talk about because the regional should be one of the toughest in Indiana with three top-10 teams.
The Rams now will host the Paoli Regional on Saturday and will face No. 6 South Ripley (21-2), while No. 8 Sullivan (21-3) will take on top-ranked Evansville Mater Dei (23-1).
Cole said it wasn’t a tough decision to figure out who would take the last shot.
“I wanted to get her coming off the screen and going to the basket,” Cole said. “I told the team I wanted her to take the shot and get the offensive rebound if she missed. We wanted to get the ball in the hands of our best player and see what she could do.”
Sears said they’ve gone over last-possession plays all year long in practice. “Dusty (Cole) has done a great job,” she said. “He’s the best coach in Indiana.”
After Eastern’s Jocelyn Mousty hit a 7-footer and a free throw with 26 seconds left, the fourth-ranked Musketeers (21-3) retook the lead, 40-39.
Mousty, who has committed to play at Ball State, led Eastern with 23 points.
Paoli then asked for two timeouts and finally inbounded the ball with 10.9 seconds left.
Sears drove into the left corner, scooted toward the basket and took a shot from 12 feet and a foul was called on Mousty.
After Sears made both free throws, Eastern’s Emily Newcomb tried a baseball-style pass to Mousty. The pass, however, was intercepted by Paoli’s Kennedy Nelson.
“We felt like the game was going to be a race to 40,” said Eastern coach Mike McBride. “We got 40 first, but it wasn’t enough. It was a great ballgame. ... We had a few unnecessary turnovers.
“We gave it everything we had.”
Paoli needed to battle back in the second half after Eastern built an 11-point lead in the first half.
Cole said his team was guilty of standing around and watching Sears. “We were a lot more aggressive in the second half. We had to match their intensity.”
Paoli trailed 22-13 at the half, and Sears, who finished with 18 points, opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer.
“We weren’t going to give up,” she said. “We were going to keep fighting, like we have all year.”
The Rams finally reclaimed the lead with 1:40 left in regulation on a 6-footer by Nelson, a 6-foot-2 junior.
Eastern’s Newcomb hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:32 left to tie it at 33, and it stayed that way as Paoli called three straight timeouts in the last 30 seconds.
Sears then missed a 10-footer at the end of regulation.
In the first overtime, Eastern surged ahead 37-35 when Mousty hit two free throws with 21 seconds left and Paoli came down and Nelson hit a 4-footer to tie it at 37. The Musketeers couldn’t get off a shot on their last possession of the first overtime.
Paoli 10 3 9 11 4 4 - 41 Eastern Pekin 14 8 5 6 4 3 - 40 Paoli (18-6) - Kingston 2, Nelson 16, Forbes 2, Stands 3, Sears 18.Eastern Pekin (21-3) - Ernstberger 3, Roberts 10, Newcomb 2, Rogers 2, Mousty 23.3-point goals - Stands, Sears, Ernstberger.