An unlikely heroine lifted Lakeland past Prairie Heights in NECC girls basketball action last Friday night in LaGrange.
Reserve forward Blake Mullet canned a 15-foot jumper with six seconds left in the fourth quarter to put the Lady Lakers ahead, 51-49. Moments later, the 5-7 senior forced a Lady Panther turnover which sealed her team’s two-point victory over their county rival.
“Blake had a great game off the bench, hitting a couple of big shots and playing tough defense,” said Lady Laker head coach Sheila Moore of Mullet, who finished with four points, three steals and two assists. “Our girls never gave up tonight, even when we were down big in the second half.”
A Lakeland triumph seemed improbable midway through the third period after a Tressa Terry three-pointer gave the visiting Lady Panthers a 36-20 lead. The margin remained at double digits (41-30) as the game entered the fourth quarter.
Consecutive hoops by Becca Levitz, the second coming off a steal, quickly cut the difference to seven. A Nicole McKibben triple and a free throw by Abi Thompson drew the Lady Lakers within three (41-38).
Lakeland finally caught Heights at 49-all on a three-point play by Thompson, who led all scorers in the contest with 20 markers. After trading turnovers and missing two shots to take the lead, the Lady Lakers found themselves with the ball and 12 seconds left on the clock.
“We were looking to reverse the ball and look for Abi (Thompson) in the post to take the shot or get fouled,” explained Moore. “Prairie Heights had her covered and Blake (Mullet) was open.”
Mullet, stationed at the right elbow of the free throw line, took the pass and launched a shot which drew a lot of iron, but eventually dropped through the net.
“Worked just like we had it drawn up,” Moore joked.
After taking a timeout, Prairie Heights successfully inbounded the ball in the backcourt. But its next pass was stolen by Mullet, who subsequently had the ball knocked out of her hands and out-of-bounds with fourth-tenths of a second left. Lakeland threw the ball in and the clock ran out.
In addition to her game-high 20 points, Thompson grabbed seven rebounds and made three steals. Ashtin Kaminer chipped in 10 points and six assists, and Levitz collected six boards, four assists and four steals.
Shawna Carbone led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 20 points. Right behind her with 18 was Terry.
The win improved Lakeland to 3-1, the best start by a Lady Laker club since the 2007-08 campaign. “This is a great testament to all the hard work our kids have been putting in,” said Moore of her squad’s fast start. “The little things that they practice every day are starting to pay off.”
Prairie Heights dipped to 2-2 with the setback.
Prairie Heights 49
Scoring by quarters
PH 9 18 14 8 -49
LL 7 10 13 21 -51
Tressa Terry 6, 5-6, 18; McKenzie Kain 1, 2-2, 4; Shawna Carbone 8, 4-10, 20; Saige Dunafin 1, 0-0, 2; Haley Kleeberg 0, 3-4, 3; Alicia Beechy 1, 0-0, 2; Havanna Kleeberg 0, 0-0, 0; Jordan LeMay 0, 0-0, 0; Totals 17, 14-22, 49
Three-point field goals 1 (Terry 1)
Becca Levitz 3, 0-0, 6; Carlee Richardson 3, 0-2, 6; Abi Thompson 7, 5-10, 20; Ashtin Kaminer 5, 0-0, 10; Nicole McKibben 1, 0-0, 3; Blake Mullet 2, 0-0, 4; Mackenzie Loy 1, 0-0, 2; Michaela Moore 0, 0-0, 0; Molly Landers 0, 0-0, 0; Cori Vaughn 0, 0-0, 0; Totals 22, 5-12, 51
Three-point field goals 2 (Thompson 1, McKibben 1)