A confidence-building winDemons hit key shots in overtime to upset No. 11 Mid-Prairie
Prior to Tuesday’s non-conference game against Mid-Prairie, Washington head girls’ basketball coach Phil Long told his team — which had shot just 23 percent from the field in its previous three games — to shoot the ball with confidence.
The Demons showed that confidence in overtime of Tuesday’s game against the 11th-ranked Golden Hawks, hitting a pair of key shots that lifted Washington to a 46-44 win.
“We had a great big talk about it in the pregame,” Long said. “I tried to relate it to softball statistics because I have a lot of softball players on the team. I said, if you bat .350, that means you fail 65 percent of the time. Good 3-point shooters shoot 35 percent, so that means you fail 65 percent of the time. So I just wanted them to know that I have confidence in them when they’re on the floor.”
Senior Natalee Enfield, a third-string point guard, opened the overtime session by draining just her fifth 3-pointer of the season to give the Demons a 42-39 lead.
“I believed I could make it, so I made it,” Enfield said.
Long was pleased to see Enfield catch the ball and shoot it with conviction.
“Natalee, a week ago, would have caught it and held it long enough to get it blocked,” he said. “But she caught it and fired. Natalee couldn’t miss on Monday night in practice. She’s money, and she proved it last night.”
After Mid-Prairie senior Mallory McArtor made a pair of free throws to tie the game, Washington junior Stephanie Fishback drove down the lane and laid the ball in to put the Demons ahead for good with 59 seconds remaining in the extra period.
“I knew in the overtime we needed to be able to drive into the lane and either score or get fouled,” she said. “I drove it in and luckily it went in.”
Washington senior Johannah Vittetoe got a steal at the other end, but senior Lauren Kimball missed the front end of a one-and-one. Mid-Prairie senior Mariah Swartzentruber missed a 10-footer that would have tied the game, and Kimball headed back to the free-throw line. This time she made both freebies to give the Demons a four-point cushion with 11 seconds left.
“Kimball has become money at the free-throw line,” Long said. “She was 4-for-5, and she’s been 80 percent over the past few games.”
The Golden Hawks frantically tried to rally in the closing seconds. Swartzentruber put back a missed 3-pointer with two seconds remaining and senior Meghan Redlinger stole Washington’s inbounds pass, but she couldn’t get a shot off before the final buzzer.
Mid-Prairie (15-6) went 1-for-5 from the field in overtime and 6-for-19 from the floor after halftime.
“That’s been the story of our year — we don’t finish,” Mid-Prairie head coach Marc Pennington said.
Mid-Prairie led by three points with a minute and a half remaining in regulation, but Washington senior Beth Dillon grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back. She was fouled on the play, and she sank the free throw to tie the score at 39.
Dillon got a steal at the other end, but Mid-Prairie senior Kattie Redlinger stole the ball back. The Golden Hawks held for the final shot, but Vittetoe got a steal in the closing seconds to send the game to overtime.
“We had numerous opportunities to put the game away at the free-throw line and couldn’t do it. If we get a rebound down there, we win the game, but they got a three-point play. We had numerous opportunities. We just didn’t go get it,” Pennington said. “You’ve got to be mentally tough for 32 minutes and make plays, and we just didn’t. We made a lot of them, but not enough.”
Swartzentruber hit three 3-pointers during the second quarter, but Washington clamped down on her defensively in the second half and she finished with 11 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds.
Fishback scored 11 points to lead Washington, and Kimball added nine. But eight players scored for the Demons, each stepping up at different times to help secure the win.
“Everybody got involved in this game,” Fishback said. “This win was a real team effort.”
Washington won on Coaches Vs. Cancer Night, and the win was a special one for Long, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The Demons wore shirts during warm-ups that read “Playing For Coach” on the front, while the Golden Hawks wore shirts that read “No One Fights Alone.”
“It was a very touching moment for me as a coach,” Long said.
Washington (12-7) snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory over a ranked Golden Hawk squad that defeated the Demons earlier in the season. Tuesday’s win should only further bolster Washington’s confidence.
“It feels great to win, especially against Mid-Prairie because they beat us earlier in the season,” Fishback said. “Us coming back and winning now shows that we’ve improved.”
The Demons will need that confidence as they prepare for Friday’s home game with rival Mt. Pleasant. That game will decide the Southeast Conference championship.
“I hoped that they would start to believe, and hopefully that builds as we prepare to face Mt. Pleasant and then move into tournament play,” Long said.