Stephanie Sturgis - Press Sports Editor
The Westview girls needed three overtimes and rallied at the end of each extra session before earning a 76-75 triple overtime victory over the host Mitchell Lady Tigers. The win came thanks to a last-second 3-pointer by Sara Olds in the Sectional round of the playoffs Saturday night in Memphis.
"We never got to the point where we were rushing shots and throwing them up there," Westview head coach Sean Stephenson said. "We did a good job fouling with enough time to give us a good shot."
With the thrilling win, the Lady Chargers (30-5) advanced to the state tournament for the first time since the 2005 season, when the members of the current squad were playing for Martin Middle School. Westview will next take on the Elizabethton Fighting Lady Cyclones (27-7) at 4 on Thursday afternoon in Murfreesboro.
The Lady Chargers never led in any of the overtimes until Olds' game-winning shot swished through the net with 1.5 seconds left in the third extra session, setting off a huge celebration on the court by Westview players, coaches, cheerleaders and fans.
The WHS party was interrupted when officials indicated the Mitchell coaches had called a timeout before time expired.
"It was pretty exciting. When the clock went to zeroes, I thought I saw the referee wave saying time was expired. I didn't see the other ref signal timeout. Then we had to refocus on defense," the Westview coach recalled.
Needing to go the length of the court, Mitchell's first pass was tipped out of bounds near mid court. Their second pass was picked off by Olds to reignite the Westview celebration.
"Sara played a really good game. She missed her first three or four shots, but she rebounded and defended well. She took charge in the third overtime," Stephenson noted. "I told her after the first quarter to keep shooting the ball. She made a big (3-pointer) in the fourth quarter and then she made the big one at the end.
"She played a big game. People forget that she's an all-district and all-region player. You've got to have kids step up, especially when (Amber) Rechis fouled out, and she did."
In the final OT, Mitchell used two Jasmine Cofield free throws to take the early lead, 72-70.
After a WHS miss, the Lady Charger defense again came up big as Grace Ann Swaim drew a charge on Montique McConnell. The foul was her fifth, sending Mitchell's best ballhandler to the bench for the rest of the game.
The Lady Chargers then suffered a loss of their own when Rechis — Westview's top scorer — committed her fifth foul mid way through the third overtime. The resulting free throws were drilled by Mitchell's Keandra Beverly for a 74-70 Lady Tiger advantage.
In the remaining 1:47, Mitchell struggled at the free-throw line, hitting only 1-of-8 attempts. When the Lady Tigers missed, the Westview girls were in position to grab the rebound.
Olds snared one of those rebounds and was fouled. The junior, who led Westview with 15 rebounds, nailed both free throws to cut the Mitchell lead in half at 74-72.
Without McConnell on the floor, Mitchell turned the ball over hurrying up the court.
Grace Ann Swaim then made 1-of-2 charity shots to cut the WHS deficit to a point with 1:29 left on the clock in the last OT.
Mitchell missed five consecutive free throws before Anesha Morton knocked one in for a 75-73 Lady Tiger lead with 36 seconds remaining.
Stephenson called for a timeout with 14 seconds left in the third overtime to draw up the Lady Chargers' final play.
Mitchell threw a monkey wrench into the plan by denying the pass to Breanna Pitcher. Instead the Westview girls improvised the winning play. Olds got the ball to Grace Ann Swaim who dribbled to the 3-point line on the right wing. The Lady Tigers swarmed toward her, leaving Olds open at the top of the key. The forward calmly let loose the winning shot.
"She had a pretty good look at it, but the play was not designed to do that," Stephenson said.
Had Westview gone down in defeat, the Lady Chargers would forever have had nightmares about their fourth quarter. The girls from Martin saw their 11-point lead evaporate when Mitchell began to take advantage of its size inside.
"I thought in the fourth quarter we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. We were not as aggressive," Stephenson said. "(Jasmine Cofield and Jasmine Gardner) decided to go rebound, and we couldn't do anything about it."
A strong showing on the glass by Westview through the first three quarters allowed the Lady Chargers to build a lead as large as 12 points, 38-26, three minutes into the second half. The WHS lead stood at 11, 47-36, with 6:14 left in the fourth frame on a Rechis 16-footer.
In addition to the stepped-up effort on the boards, Mitchell began to jump the passing lanes resulting in two steals for Gardner and one for Tenier Mathis to key a 7-0 MHS run.
Olds stretched the lead back to seven, 50-43, but Mitchell immediately answered with a trey banked in from the top of the key by McConnell with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter.
The rest of the way, Westview hit 6-of-8 free throws, leaving the door open just a crack for Mitchell to make its comeback.
The Lady Tigers got four points from Gardner and a pair of 3-point bombs from Morton, including a game-tying 3-ball for a 56-all score with 71 ticks remaining in regulation.
Following a Westview miss, Gardner snared the rebound for MHS with 46 seconds to play in the fourth. Mitchell put the ball in the hands of McConnell, who dribbled the clock down before driving into the paint. Lady Charger senior Amber Nanney stepped in her path and drew a charge negating McConnell's potential game-winning jumper and forcing the first overtime.
"(Nanney) has developed into a person who wants to do the dirty work for us. No play was bigger than the one at the end of regulation," Stephenson said of his lone active senior stopping the speedy Tiger ball handler.
In the first overtime, Mitchell controlled the tip and ran time off the clock. Gardner twice scored on putbacks for a 60-56 lead with 2:21 on the clock.
Rechis put in four points, but Mitchell countered with four McConnell free throws. Grace Ann Swaim and Olds did combine to draw another charge against McConnell in that span.
After two more Rechis charity shots trimmed the MHS lead to 64-62 with 57 seconds to play in the first OT, Morton took a quick, ill-advised three that missed the mark. Pitcher pulled in the rebound for Westview, which set up a driving, pull-up jumper by Rechis for the 64-64 tie at the 37-second mark. Fouled on the play, she could not connect on the free throw, and neither team scored again in the first overtime.
Again, Mitchell controlled the tip to start the second extra four minutes. McConnell dribbled a minute off the clock before even starting to run a play. Gardner put the Tigers back on top with a layup with 2:30 showing on the scoreboard.
Cofield grabbed a WHS miss and Stephenson opted to put freshman Taylor Swaim on McConnell. Swaim's fresh legs helped wear down the Lady Tiger, who hit only half of her next four free throws. A Rechis driving layup was sandwiched in between the freebies for a 68-66 MHS lead with 46 seconds left in the second overtime.
"Taylor made a big difference because she ran (McConnell) down. Conditioning was a big factor. We were tired, but we didn't get to the point where we were completely spent. We dug down and found extra energy," Stephenson said.
On the Westview end, Grace Ann Swaim missed a shot in the paint, but the Lady Chargers out-hustled Mitchell for the rebound. Olds hit the floor, scooped up the ball and fed Grace Ann Swaim, who was fouled. Two Swaim freebies evened the score at 68-all with 31 seconds remaining.
McConnell hit two more free throws to move the hosts back in front before Rechis missed a jumper. Grace Ann Swaim hauled in the rebound and was fouled with 14 seconds showing. The talented junior hit both charity shots for a 70-all score, the sixth tie of the game.
Taylor Swaim and the WHS defense kept McConnell from shooting a potential game-winner to end the second OT and set up the drama of the third.
In the game's first quarter, Westview used excellent floor spacing and got five points each from Rechis, Grace Ann Swaim and Pitcher with each one hitting a trey for a 17-14 lead.
In the second quarter, Pitcher rattled in an early momentum-changing 3-ball and Rechis hit twice from long range as Westview boosted its lead to 10 at 31-21 by halftime.
Rechis topped all scorers with 32 points followed by Olds' 19 and 16 from Grace Ann Swaim. Gardner's 23 points led MHS.