Instant Classic / East rallies from big deficit, edges North in overtime

BLOOMINGTON — Columbus North built a couple of double-digits lead in the second half of Friday night’s Bloomington South Sectional semifinal game.

Columbus East came storming back.

Saige Stahl scored on a putback off of a missed free throw to force an overtime session. In the extra period, Stahl, Whitley Rankin and Albany Speer hit enough free throws down the stretch to give East a thrilling 62-60 come from behind victory to advance to tonight’s sectional final against East Central.

“We’ve been practicing really hard this week, and we came out the way that we didn’t want to,” Rankin said. “We came out slow and didn’t have much intensity and couldn’t get any offense going. In the second half, we were like, ‘Guys, this isn’t over, we don’t want it to be over. We want to keep going.’ As a team in the second half and fourth quarter, we really pushed through. We were there for each other and supporting each other and gave the maximum effort. We wanted it so bad that we got it — we got it, we all played so good.

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East (16-7) will now face East Central, who defeated Bloomington South in the other semifinal game, at 7:30 p.m. today for the sectional title. The Olympians and Trojans played in the sectional title game back in 2018.

After Katie Dougherty was fouled on a 3-point attempt late, she made the first and missed the second free throw. After a missed third attempt, Stahl got the offensive rebound and putback.

“I just knew I had to get the rebound and put it back up,” Stahl said. “I had to give it my all because we had to win.”

The Bull Dogs (16-9) started to build momentum early when Sierra Norman opened the game with a 3-pointer to help them to a 5-0 lead. East prevented the momentum from gaining traction, staying within 8-6 after the first quarter.

The perimeter shooting heated up for Norman to help North out to a 6-1 run to start the second quarter and extend the lead to 14-7. Two free throws from Kylah Lawson and an offensive putback from Norman gave the Bull Dogs their first double-digit lead of the game at 18-7.

Later in the second quarter with 2:52 to play, Alexa McKinley, who already picked up two fouls in the half, checked into the game for an offensive series for the Bull Dogs. She awarded the team by burying a triple to extend the lead to 24-11, and eventually North enjoyed a 25-12 halftime lead.

East cut the lead to 27-22 after three quarters and tied the game on a Rankin 3-pointer with 1:27 left in regulation.

The Bull Dogs regained the lead on a driving layup by Kylah Lawson with 31 seconds remaining. Alexa McKinley added a free throw with 8.2 seconds left, but then after a timeout, North fouled on the inbounds pass. Koryn Greiwe made the one and one to cut it to 51-50.

After McKinley made two more free throws with 6.8 seconds left, the Bull Dogs fouled Katie Dougherty on a 3-point attempt with 1.4 seconds remaining. Dougherty made the first, but missed the last two, and Stahl was there for the putback to send it to overtime.

East got out to a 59-54 lead in the overtime. North got it back to 61-60, and after a turnover, had it under their own basket. But the Bull Dogs missed a 12-footer, and Stahl made a free throw with 1.5 seconds left to account for the final margin.

Stahl and Leah Bachmann each scored 14 points, while Dougherty finished with 13 and Greiwe had 12 for the Olympians. Norman and McKinley each scored 20 for the Bull Dogs.

North coach Pat McKee appreciated his senior class of Norman, Annie Anderson, Tessa Lomax and Riley Eder.

“They gave it all they could tonight. They played as hard as they could,” McKee said. “Sierra made shots, especially early. Annie defended really, really well. Riley Eder didn’t play in the game tonight, but her effort in practice and her intelligence is always really good, and unfortunately Tessa Lomax was not able to be here today because of health issues, but her career has been excellent. This year, the health issues, though, limited her greatly. It’s unfortunate because she could have contributed tonight if she was here and healthy.”