Crater rally denies EP
CENTRAL POINT — Eagle Point had one of the state’s top Class 5A girls basketball teams on the ropes all night and yet somehow Crater found a way to mount a wild fourth-quarter rally and secure one of its toughest wins of the season Tuesday night.
Crater trailed by nine points entering the fourth quarter but used a 16-2 surge over the final eight minutes to deny the gritty Eagles for a 52-47 victory that secured at least a share of the Midwestern League title with one game to go.
“I’m just really super proud of my team because for 3½ quarters it didn’t look good,” said Crater head coach David Heard, whose team entered the game ranked No. 3 in the 5A media poll and No. 1 in the state power rankings.
“The positive of all this is, for the third time this year, we’ve battled back and won a game we probably shouldn’t have won,” he added.
Senior Courtney Setzer had 20 points and eight rebounds and junior Destiny Fahndrich added seven points, eight rebounds and five steals for Crater (21-1, 11-0 MWL), which will vie for the outright MWL championship on Friday at Springfield (14-7, 9-1).
“It’s special, you don’t just go win conference championships every day,” said Heard. “This is our first one in eight years and I’m excited that they can call themselves conference champions. I don’t know what’s going to happen Friday, playing without (a sick) Cheyenne Scott is going to make it tough on us, but we’re just going to go compete and see what happens.”
Eagle Point (11-10, 2-8) provided a great example of true competitive fire on Tuesday, outhustling Crater to loose balls or second-chance opportunities and limiting turnovers against the Comets’ pressure. Senior Sydney May and junior Adrienne Wood were key in executing the Eagles’ attack, with junior Kylene Briggs and seniors Kayla Nielsen and Bailey Lester benefitting from their efforts.
“I feel like we are a lot better team than our record indicates,” said EP head coach Paul Bell. “At Eagle Point we keep trying to build a tradition and we’ve got to be in these situations to know how to handle them.”
“How many times do you get to play the No. 1 team in the state and have a lead halfway through the fourth quarter?” he added. “We’ve just got to do a better job of keeping our composure and do a better job of executing and doing the details that we know to do.”
May was especially impressive, scoring 14 points to go with 12 rebounds and two blocks and serving as a settling influence for Eagle Point. The 5-10 standout routinely beat Comets off the dribble for her own shot or for open looks by her teammates.
“Sydney May was unbelievable,” said Heard. “... I’ve coached a lot of years and I’ve never had a kid that I felt like we couldn’t stop, and we could not stop her. We were trying to put two people on her trying to deny her the ball because when she had the ball she did what she wanted.”
Wood scored all 12 of her points in the first half to go with four steals, three rebounds and two assists while Briggs scored five straight points during a key stretch in the third quarter to thwart a Crater rally and help her team enter the fourth up 45-36.
Briggs finished with nine points and six rebounds and the Eagles got six points apiece from Neilsen and Lester.
The tide began to turn in the fourth quarter after Olivia Ryerson connected on her second 3-pointer and Mallory Heard got a steal and set Setzer up for a three-point play to cut Crater’s deficit to 47-44 with 4:45 to play.
The Eagles then spread the court out and let May break down the defense but, after a few rotations, Setzer affected a shot attempt by Briggs that missed its mark and was tracked down by Fahndrich. On the other end, Kes Noles missed a 3-pointer, but Mallory Heard got the rebound and made a nifty pass underneath to Setzer for a lay-in with 2:28 to go.
With 2:12 to go on a reset, May tracked down a long inbounds pass and worked the ball upcourt against Fahndrich, who matched her step by step and ultimately forced a turnover as May ran out of room near the sideline with 2:03 remaining.
May was then assessed with a technical foul after the players had fallen to the court — her fourth personal foul — and Setzer calmly drained both free throws for Crater’s first lead, 48-47, since early in the third.
“We lost our composure a little bit but it’s still a one-point game with two minutes to go,” said Bell. “In that situation it’s tough and how we react, that’s something we’ll take into the last two games and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Bell removed May from the game and she didn't return.
Crater spread the ball out and forced the Eagles to foul with 53.5 seconds to go. Heard missed the front end of a one-and-one but Setzer tracked down the rebound and, after being fouled, knocked down both free throws to make it 50-47 with 42.8 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Eagle Point ended up with a corner 3-point attempt by Wood that hit the side of the backboard and then Neilsen was assessed an intentional foul against Fahndrich. Both free throws were missed, however, and Crater turned the ball over on the inbounds to give the Eagles one more chance but they turned the ball right back over to the Comets.
Fahndrich’s two free throws with 14.8 seconds sealed the victory and Noles came up with a steal on EP’s final possession.
Heard finished with a career-high eight assists to offset the loss of Scott, who is out with mononucleosis. Senior Bailey Bascom scored nine points and the Comets got six points, three rebounds and two steals each from Noles and Ryerson.
EAGLE POINT (47) — May 14, Wood 12, Briggs 9, Nielsen 6, Lester 6, Hoefft 0, Crowe 0, Lilly 0, Beebe 0. Totals: 16-40 10-15 47.
CRATER (52) — Setzer 20, Bascom 9, Fahndrich 7, Noles 6, Ryerson 6, Gavin 2, E. Scott 2, Heard 0, Bean 0, Berriochoa 0. Totals: 17-50 14-20 52.
3-point goals — Eagle Point 5-16 (Wood 2, Nielsen 2, Lester 1), Crater 4-18 (Ryerson 2, Bascom 1, Noles 1. Fouled out — Nielsen. Technical foul — May.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry