Down to 3 players, Knights fight Cougars to final buzzer

Girls varsity team loses key players, the momentum, a 13-point lead and the game, but even down two players, they still create opportunities to win in game’s final minute

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Meredith Grotevant

After Sam Cowles and Tracy Atoo fouled out of the game, Miranda DiGiovanni, Chris Schumann and Kashawna Henry battled the Cougars three-on-five, creating two good scoring chances to tie or win the game.

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Coach Carly Kehn might be the most glass half-full Knight in all the Mac kingdom because after a disappointing home loss to the Crockett Cougars on Friday night, she still found a silver lining.

The girls varsity took the court hoping to steal a win with the six players they had available to play the game.

After rallying from 12 points down late in the first quarter, the Knights staged two runs to build a seven-point halftime lead. They seemed poised to earn a much-needed district win.

We [knew] that if we lost this game, [our] chance of [making the] playoffs decreases significantly, but we fought super hard, made a bunch of shots, and had aggressive defense and ended the half up by seven.”

— sophomore Sam Cowles

All this with only six players suiting up for the game.

Through the third quarter and into the fourth, the Knights continued to build a comfortable lead. With under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, senior Tracy Atoo scored on a put back after an offensive rebound to give the Knights a 13-point lead.

Unfortunately, the basketball gods conspired to expose the Knights’ thin roster in those agonizing final five minutes.

After drawing her fourth foul with under four minutes to play, Cowles was called for her fifth with 3:13 remaining, even though it appeared on video that the Crocket shooter initiated contact on the play. With only five players available at the time, Cowles had fouled out, leaving the Knights playing four on five. With 1:18 remaining Atoo fouled out and suddenly, the team went from comfortably ahead to clinging to a chance to escape with a win.

The combination of the referees calling a close game and clutch 3-point and free-throw shooting by the Cougars reversed the momentum of the game. With just under a minute to play, Crockett tied the game and took the lead with a traditional and-1 three-point play. 

 

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Photos by Meredith Grotevant, Gabrielle Maydozian and Elena Ulack 

When asked about the game today, Kehn chose to focus on her team’s mettle in that final minute.

“The fact that we had opportunities to win with only three players was amazing,” Kehn said.

Amazing. But also true. 

Down 55-54, with 43 seconds remaining, Kashawna Henry penetrated the lane then kicked the ball out to freshman Miranda DiGiovanni who had a good look at a 3-pointer that was online but just short, hitting the front of the rim.

When the Cougars went four corners to try to kill the clock, Henry wisely fouled a Cougar with 17 seconds left in the game. After Crockett made one of two free throws, the Knights had the ball and one more chance to tie the game with a 2-pointer and take the lead with a 3.

The fact that we had opportunities to win with only three players was amazing.”

— head coach Carly Kehn

Schumann dribbled the length of the court through a persistent double-team then circled around the arc and passed to Henry who had a good look at a 10-footer on the baseline, but the shot to tie was just on line but just long, hitting the back of the rim. 

You could choose to look at the outcome as a demoralizing loss, which it no doubt was, or you could admire a team that simply didn’t quit despite being short-handed, despite questionable foul calls and despite all the momentum going against them in the game’s closing minutes.

Kehn chose the latter and that tells you something about this coach and her team. Cowles agreed with her 100 percent.

“We came into the second quarter down by 10 knowing that if we lost this game by a lot, [our] chance of [making the] playoffs decrease significantly,” Cowles said. “But we fought super hard, made a bunch of shots, and had aggressive defense and ended the half up by seven.”

And even after that hard work had unraveled in the fourth quarter and they were down to three players, they kept fighting.

And that playoff fate isn’t sealed yet either. The Knights may be on the outside looking in, currently in fifth place at 3-4 in district play, but they can get to even on the district season with a win at LASA on Tuesday. And from there who knows? 

One thing’s for sure. The team isn’t going to quit.

— with reporting by Meredith Grotevant and Elena Ulack