Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but it doesn't hurt to be both.
The Mukwonago girls basketball team avenged its only loss the season Friday by edging visiting Waukesha West, 63-62, in an overtime thriller to be remembered for years to come.
The Indians were very good for three quarters, but it was a 3-point prayer from Marissa Landry at the buzzer that provided the final knockout punch in this heavyweight battle.
"Every once in a while if you throw something at the rim, something special happens," Mukwonago head coach Todd Frohwirth said. "Sometimes you gotta be a little lucky."
With first place in the Classic 8 Conference at stake, the Indians held a 45-31 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before a furious rally led by West freshman guard Dani Rhodes. The Wolverines outscored the Indians in the final quarter, 24-11.
Rhodes, who finished with 17 points, scored eight in the fourth quarter, including two long threes. The latter pulled West to within one at 52-51 with 22.6 seconds left. A drive to the basket from Rhodes one possession later sent the game to overtime at 53 apiece.
West took its first lead of the night in overtime and held a 60-56 advantage with two minutes to play when Mukwonago freshman Bre Cera, who scored 17 points including four3-pointers, drilled a three to pull the Indians within one. West then missed two free throws, and the Indians' Morgan Vukovich hit 1 of 2 to tie the game at 60.
With 4.5 seconds left, Cera fouled West's Katy Walz, who iced a pair of free throws for a 62-60 lead.
"Bre was reaching in; she thought she had an angle to the ball, and she was going to get a jump ball," Frohwirth said. "We want her to be a little more careful, but she's an athlete with emotions and this is a big game, and she saw the ball in front of her, so she went ahead and reached for it. She got a hold of her arm instead of the ball."
On the final possession, Landry, who finished with 14 points, took the inbounds pass and raced past halfcourt, then launched an off-balance bomb that banked off the glass and connected as the horn sounded.
"We had it won, we thought, but give her credit," West head coach Mark Busalacchi said. "She made a great shot, I think she was falling out of bounds, one-handed and went off the backboard. She had to be a good 30 feet out. She'll remember that shot for the rest of her life, and that's cool. This experience is for the girls."
Busalacchi downplayed the idea that Cera's foul actually hurt the Wolverines by forcing them to lose possession too early and give the Indians a chance at the last shot.
"I don't know if we would have gotten that great of a shot," he said. "I was calling timeout when Katy got fouled, so I don't know what I'd rather have; free throws with 5 seconds or a sideline play with 5 seconds left. I probably would have taken the free throws. I'd take my chances with that last shot 99 times out of 100. In hindsight, maybe miss that second free throw and maybe they flounder up the floor a little bit."
Despite a raucous post-game environment, Frohwirth was blunt in his analysis.
"I think they're better than we are," he said. "They have more talent than we do. For us to even survive and have the lead, our kids played great. We played better than we are. So I was not surprised at all they were able to catch up and almost win the game. They're the most talented team in the conference, they have two Division 1 seniors. For us to even compete, I thought it was great for our kids."
Busalacchi was proud of his team's street-fight mentality in the comeback effort and singled out Rhodes' performance.
"As much as she struggled for about three quarters, she didn't play well, but she's a freshman and she's going to make mistakes." he said, "But that fourth quarter, she was unbelievably good."
In addition to Rhodes, also reaching double figures for West were Walz with 19 and Lizzy Connors with 10.
Mukwonago improved to 14-1 overall and 7-1 in the Classic 8, while West sits 12-3 and 7-1. Both teams can still earn at least a piece of the conference title by winning the final six games of the league season.
Ortiz delivers a winner
Landry's shot might have been one of the week's craziest, but it didn't lead to the biggest upset.
That honor went to Waukesha North's Ruben Ortiz, whose driving runner with less than 1 second on the clock helped North shock Brookfield Central (11-3) in a nonconference tilt Jan. 15, 60-59.
Ortiz finished with 20 points and helped his team overcome a 21-14 first-quarter deficit to top a team that had just topped nationally-ranked Chester of Pennsylvania three days earlier.
North saw the other side of it, too. On Friday against Kettle Moraine, the Lasers hit a deep 3-pointer with 19 seconds to go, and North suffered a 61-60 conference loss.
|Classic 8 boys ||W ||L |
|Arrowhead ||8 ||0 |
|Mukwonago ||7 ||1 |
|Catholic Memorial ||6 ||2 |
|Waukesha West ||4 ||4 |
|Muskego ||3 ||5 |
|Kettle Moraine ||3 ||5 |
|Waukesha North ||1 ||7 |
|Waukesha South ||0 ||8 |
|Classic 8 girls ||W ||L |
|Mukwonago ||7 ||1 |
|Waukesha West ||7 ||1 |
|Arrowhead ||5 ||3 |
|Muskego ||4 ||4 |
|Waukesha South ||4 ||4 |
|Waukesha North ||2 ||6 |
|Kettle Moraine ||2 ||6 |
|Catholic Memorial ||1 ||7 |
*as of Monday