Madelaine Smith stepped to the free-throw line with 4.3 seconds left in the game and hit the front end of a 1-and-1 to lift the Greenwood Lady Bluejays to a 37-36 nonconference victory over host New Covenant Academy on Thursday night.
Lady Warriors sophomore Jacey Lamb drained a 3-pointer with 18 seconds to go to give New Covenant a 36-35 lead. Greenwood called a timeout with 15.6 seconds left and the length of the floor to go. Junior Meredith Sharp was fouled and hit the first of two free throws to tie the game at 36 for the Lady Bluejays with less than 15 seconds remaining.
Sharp missed the second free throw, but Smith grabbed the rebound, was fouled and headed to the line.
“(Smith) played really cool, kept her head and once we got it tied there at the very end… what a huge offensive rebound to get herself back on the free-throw line, where she’s really good,” Greenwood coach Kent Hedgpeth said.
Smith may have looked calm on the outside, but she was anything but on the inside with the game on the line.
“Stepping up to the free-throw line, I think my heart sank – but when it went in, the first one, I was like, ‘OK, we’re good,’ ” Smith said. “It was awesome.”
Even when Lamb hit the 3 to give the Lady Warriors the lead with 18 seconds left, New Covenant coach David Anderlik knew the game wasn’t over. His team has been through this battle before with Greenwood – an overtime loss in their tournament back in December.
“There was a lot of time left on the clock,” Anderlik said. “We were not rebounding real well, so I knew they had an opportunity to do exactly what they did – draw fouls and hit free throws.”
New Covenant controlled the first quarter, taking a 12-4 lead, as all five starters put points on the board.
Amy Abdalla scored the first basket of the second quarter for Greenwood to make it 12-6. Sophomore Sydney Jones hit a 3 to push New Covenant’s lead to 15-6 and freshman Maggie Phipps’ baseline jumper extended the Lady Warriors’ advantage to 11 points (17-6).
Abdalla answered with another bucket on the block (17-8) for Greenwood, but Phipps scored on a fastbreak to put New Covenant back up by 11 (19-8).
Greenwood called timeout at the 4:38 mark and that’s when Smith came in and provided the spark the Lady Bluejays needed, going on a personal 6-0 run and scoring 10 points in the second, including four free throws to close out the quarter.
“Madelaine’s had some good quarters for us,” Hedgpeth said. “She came in and hit two or three buckets, and then she finished off the half with those two free throws, and that got us within one (19-18).”
Following a Sharp free throw, Greenwood took its first lead of the game (21-19) on a baseline drive by Smith at the 6:45 mark. Greenwood was up 29-23 before New Covenant frustrated the Lady Bluejays a bit to fuel a 6-0 run and tie it at 29. The two teams traded free throws and headed into the fourth quarter tied 30-30.
“I thought we probably weathered that run better than we have in the past, and that run didn’t hurt us quite as bad,” Hedgpeth said of the third quarter. “That let us settle down a little bit. And then we made some fairly decent choices on offense, once we got it down (on our end).”
Katherine Ulmer put the Lady Bluejays back on top (32-30) to start the fourth quarter, going up and under to score the layup. Turnovers and missed shots were much of the story in the fourth, as both teams seemed to be pressing a bit.
Even after Greenwood took a 35-31 lead with 49.7 seconds left, Phipps got a steal, was fouled and hit both ends of the 1-and-1 (35-33).
The two teams traded fouls and trips to the free-throw line over the next 20 seconds or so before Lamb hit the 3 to give the Lady Warriors a 36-35 lead.
But fouls doomed New Covenant in the final seconds and set up the winning free throws for Greenwood.
“I knew we were going to have to execute,” Anderlik said. “I knew it was going to come down to one more shot and we just didn’t execute.”
“It was a great game,” Smith said, “and I’m glad that we’re the one that won by one point. It was definitely stressful.”
Smith led all scorers with 15 points for Greenwood (7-3). Phipps and Lamb scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for New Covenant (2-9).
Greenwood 37, New Covenant Academy 36
Greenwood – 4-14-12-7—37
New Covenant – 12-7-11-6—36
Greenwood (7-3) – Katherine Ulmer 5, Amy Abdalla 8, Kendra Shelton 4, Madelaine Smith 15, Meredith Sharp 5.
New Covenant Academy (2-9) – Sydney Jones 3, Jacey Lamb 10, Emerson Russell 6, Karsen Wilkins 2, Maggie Phipps 12, Claire Cannefax 3.