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Benton Central withstands Red Devils' best shot, prevails in overtime

November 23, 2012
West Lafayette Jr.-Sr. High School

Caitlyn Tolen had been knocked to the floor, taken hard bumps to the back, front and both sides. She’ll wake up today with bruises in places she didn’t know could bruise.

Pain never felt so good.

The Benton Central senior point guard exited the locker room Friday night smiling. Her 32 points carried Class 3A No. 4 BC to a 68-64 overtime victory against West Lafayette in the J&C Hoops Classic semifinals.

Tolen swished a 3-pointer with 1:57 to go in overtime to put BC up 61-60 and hit a pullup jumper in the lane 45 seconds later, then calmly sank a free throw with 4.8 seconds left for the clincher to cap an all-out physical brawl between the Bison and Red Devils.

“She is clutch. Her name starts with a C for a reason,” BC coach David Baxter said. “She made countless drives with three or four girls hanging on her.

“We persevered and played through a physical game. That was a sectional game right there, just the atmosphere.”

The Bison advance to the J&C Hoops Classic championship for the fifth time in its eight seasons, with the lone championship coming in the inaugural tournament in 2005. They’ll play Harrison, a first-time championship participant.

Tolen’s 32 points are the second most in a girls J&C Hoops Classic game, only outdone by a 33-point night by former Lafayette Jeff standout Brandi Richardson.

It took every one of those 32 points to lead BC past the Red Devils and their offensive juggernaut Grace Palmieri on the Resler Gymnasium floor.

Palmieri scored 27 points, the final two pulling West Side within 66-64 with 34 seconds remaining. Her two free throws with 46 seconds left in regulation eventually forced overtime. Palmieri had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation but was off the mark on a contested baseline jumper at the buzzer.

“We needed to win it in regulation,” said WL coach Jane Schott, who was vying to get her team to the championship game for a second straight season. “We were running out of gas. BC is just a great team, and I give them credit for coming back when they were down and pushing it ahead.”

Just how even were the two Hoosier Conference schools?

They were tied at halftime. West Lafayette outrebounded BC 36-35. The Red Devils made 24 of 58 shots. BC made 26 of 56. BC’s 6-0 run to end the first quarter was the most consecutive points scored by either team.

“West Lafayette has tenacious defense,” said Tolen, who turned the ball over an uncharacteristic nine times. “They are up in your grill for 32 minutes. They try to speed you up. It worked a couple times and we got a little frazzled.”

While the Red Devils leave with an empty feeling, they already are eager for a rematch on Dec. 6.

“We’re looking forward to that, because this is not what we wanted to happen,” Palmieri said. “This year we have a different mindset. We know we have the players to keep up with teams like this and when we go out on the floor, we expect to win. It didn’t happen, so that’s rough.”

Palmieri completed a double-double with 10 rebounds and also had five assists and three steals. Shelby Mann scored 14 points, including a 3-pointer she banked in from the top of the key with 1:13 to go in regulation to cut BC’s lead to 58-56. Anna Searle and Kayla Jones each had seven points and five rebounds for WL (3-1).

Like Palmieiri, Tolen collected a double-double, pulling down 11 rebounds and also contributing six steals. Tessa Brouillette and Cassidy Deno each scored 12, with Deno grabbing nine boards. Freshman Katie Shields had five rebounds and seven points, including a free throw with 1:06 left in overtime to give BC a 64-60 lead.

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