Washington rallies past rival Mt. Pleasant in overtime
MT. PLEASANT — Mt. Pleasant got off to a hot start, but Washington’s quick and relentless defense slowed the Panthers down in the second half and senior Lauren Kimball made late free throws to seal a 60-57 overtime win for Washington on Friday night.
“The key to the win was our aggressive defensive style,” Washington head coach Phil Long said. “We’ll wear you down eventually.”
It took them until the fourth quarter, but the 11th-ranked Demons did slow down the Panthers enough to catch up on the scoreboard. The last six minutes of regulation were a battle between the Southeast Conference rivals, with five ties and four lead changes.
Kimball made a free throw to tie the score at 50 with 49 seconds left to play, but neither team could do anything after that, forcing overtime.
Kimball came up big again in the extra four minutes, making another five free throws and a three-pointer to seal the victory. She finished with a career-high 24 points.
“I knew at the end that I had to knock down [my shots],” Kimball said. “The whole time, we had to keep our hearts in the game. They were mentally tough, we were mentally tough; we just happened to stay in it longer.
“We knew they were a good team,” she added. “We knew it would be a close game.”
Early in the game, it didn’t look like it would be close, as the Demon defense struggled against a tall Panther team.
“Our starting post was out with a concussion,” Long said, “but I think that Addisen Shive, coming off the bench, did a great job playing defense on [Kelsi] Phipps.
“[Phipps] was killing us. She’s probably the best female athlete I’ve coached against in the 20 years I’ve been a coach,” he added.
Phipps, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, had a three-point play just 20 seconds into the first quarter. She went on to score 10 of the Panthers’ 15 first-quarter points.
She finished with 19 points on the night, and Taryne Shull, a 6-foot-1 junior, contributed 16 points. Junior Natalie Myers added 11.
Mt. Pleasant opened the game with a 9-0 run, but the Demons weren’t worried.
“When we were down early, I didn’t even call timeout,” Long said. “I knew that our legs would wear down [the Mt. Pleasant] guards.”
The Demons made up some ground in the second quarter, but trailed 25-18 at halftime.
But then they came out in the third quarter with a full court press that the Panthers struggled to break.
In fact, the Demon defense led to 27 Mt. Pleasant turnovers on the night, and most were the result of the press.
“That’s way too many,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Joanna Settles said. “We need to work on a better way to handle the pressure.”
The Demons capitalized on their opportunities, tying the game at 31 in the third quarter and taking their first lead of the game, 39-38, on a 3-pointer by Kimball with 5:38 remaining in regulation.
“Kimball, a senior, stepped up with a couple of big threes and free throws at the end,” Long said. “What more can you ask for?”
With the win, Washington improved to 9-2 overall and 4-0 in conference play. The Panthers fell to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the league.
“I had [Mt. Pleasant] picked to win the conference, and they still could do a lot of damage,” Long said.