Lady ’Canes’ season ends with double-OT loss
Indiana (68) Vs. New Castle (67)
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
BUTLER — The fire has been missing in the New Castle High girls basketball team.
Wednesday night, that absent flame came back to burn the Lady ’Canes.
Indiana’s Leslie Stapleton drained what proved to be the game-winning foul shot with 1.5 seconds left in a 68-67 double-overtime win over New Castle in the second round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs at Butler High School.
The loss set off an unfamiliar scene for the Lady ’Canes of dejection, heads down and tears flowing uncontrollably.
New Castle was coming off an emotional 66-61 verdict on March 6 in the WPIAL championship over Hopewell and a 43-42 decision over Mercyhurst Prep on Saturday.
“The only unfortunate thing is when you’re trying to climb the mountain, you have a lot more desire that way,” Rankin said. “We were chasing Hopewell and caught them (in the WPIAL championship).
“I’m not sure if our desire was as strong after that. It’s been a District 7 curse for a lot of teams. We barely escaped against Mercyhurst Prep and we just didn’t have enough tonight. We seemed to be playing with fire lately, we weren’t nearly as crisp.”
The Lady Little Indians (23-2) avenged a 58-45 loss to the Lady ’Canes in the WPIAL semifinals.
“I’m not sure it was a matter of revenge so much as it was a matter of they understood they had to win to move on,” Indiana coach Dave Woodall said. “They wanted to move on in the worst way and they worked hard to beat New Castle.”
Indiana will meet West York, a 53-44 winner over Forest Hills, Saturday in the quarterfinals at a time and site to be announced.
New Castle was attempting to reach the quarterfinals for only the second time in school history. The last time was in 2006, losing to Oakland Catholic.
“It’s a journey; it’s hard to get here,” Rankin said. “At this school, it’s like a birthright to be in the semifinals of the district and beyond.
“They have to understand and cherish the work, the journey, the process and understand it’s just not handed to you. Nothing worth having is worth giving to somebody. If it’s worth it, you should work hard for it.”
The Lady ’Canes finished 22-4, with their losses coming by a combined 11 points.
SEALING THE WIN
Kristin Brice put Indiana up for good with a basket in the lane with 2:04 to play in the second overtime. She got a rebound off an errant Lady Little Indians shot and completed the play.
Both teams finished with 30 rebounds, but Indiana was outworking the Lady ’Canes on the offensive glass.
“I thought we could control the game if we could control the rebounding, which we didn’t,” Rankin said. “They stayed in the game with rebounding.”
Aubree Frye put Indiana up 65-61 with 1:24 left on a field goal, but Ja’Nia McPhatter buried a 3-pointer with 56 seconds remaining to give New Castle life.
Stapleton sank two clutch foul shots with 21.9 seconds left for a 67-64 Lady Little Indians margin.
Kaylynn Waters missed a 3-pointer and New Castle scrambled for the rebound. LaShauna Brothers was also long on a 3-pointer and Indiana finally corralled the rebound with 11 seconds to play.
Tiara Stossel was fouled with five seconds to go, but she missed both foul shots. However, Stapleton chased down the loose ball and was fouled again with 1.5 seconds remaining. Stapleton missed the first, before burying the second to seal the victory.
Brothers threw in a one-handed bomb from three-quarter court before the buzzer to close the scoring. Some New Castle members mobbed Brothers initially as if the game was headed to another overtime. They eventually realized the game was over and the tears began to flow.
“I think you play so much, you kind of lose track of the situation,” Rankin said. “They missed three out of four free throws which could have closed the door quicker.”
Said Woodall of Brothers’ bomb, “By that time, I knew we had a four-point lead and I didn’t even see it go in. It didn’t matter at that point and I didn’t even watch it.”
Stapleton led all scorers with 32 points, 22 of which came in the second half.
“I just came out and worked really hard,” Stapleton said. “I wanted to do my best and it paid off.
“We were pretty hungry to win this game. We felt it was our turn.”
Waters paced the Lady ’Canes with 24 markers on 9-of-20 shooting, while Brothers chipped in with 18. Christina Talbert tallied 13 points and McPhatter was next with 10.
Waters also added six steals and five rebounds. Brothers secured a game-best 10 boards.
New Castle got the opening tip in the first overtime and held the ball for just over two minutes. Some of the Lady ’Canes were visibly frustrated by the slow style.
“If (Woodall) was going to let us hold the ball, then it would mean either we win or it goes another overtime,” Rankin said. “I was trying to convince the kids to do that and it was bothering me because it’s simple.
“If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score.”
Indiana played a zone the whole game and New Castle’s slowdown was fine with Woodall.
“I don’t think they liked playing against our zone,” he said. “I was content with it, it let us sit back and get a little rest. If they wanted to do that, that’s fine. I would have hated to play four full minutes against them up and down the court against them. To me, that was a good thing for us.”
Brothers finally penetrated through the Lady Little Indians and her runner in the lane rolled around the rim and off with 1:26 left. Stossel buried a 3-pointer with 56 seconds left to give Indiana a 57-54 lead. She finished with 12 markers.
Waters answered with a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to knot the count at 57. Stossel failed on a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play and Brothers snared the rebound.
ONE MORE CHANCE
The Lady ’Canes held for the final shot, but indecision led to Brothers launching a long 3-pointer that hit off the backboard and front rim at the horn.
“All year, we’ve struggled because people freeze on last-second shots,” Rankin said. “People just stand there. We just didn’t execute the way we should have.”
Brothers split a fair of freebies with 33.3 seconds to go in regulation to put New Castle up 54-52. The miss on the second attempt gave Indiana the option of a tie or the win. Stapleton hit the tying basket with 22 seconds remaining.
Waters’ 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the front rim.
“Free throws are always big in close games and we’ve seen that a thousand times at every level of basketball,” Rankin said. “The second one was right on line, (Brothers) just missed it. That’s how you close the door. That’s what championship teams do and we just weren’t able to do it tonight.”
Said Woodall, “There’s so many plays you can look at in a one-point game. Brothers played a heck of a game. That missed foul shot certainly wasn’t the game. You can’t put the game on her at all.”
New Castle was 25 of 64 from the field, compared to 25 of 53 for Indiana. The Lady ’Canes forced 26 turnovers.
“I think what we did in lieu of rebounding was pressure the ball,” Rankin said. “Unfortunately, when they got out of it, they were able to score. It was kind of like all or nothing.”