Girls' Basketball: Big comeback keeps East Ridge in SEC mix
With five minutes to play and trailing 50-40, East Ridge's' hopes for a Suburban East Conference crown looked dead in the water.
Instead, the Raptors staged a furious late rally to catch and then defeat ninth-ranked Roseville 65-61 in overtime Friday.
With the win, East Ridge (17-5, 9-3) moved to within half a game of Roseville (18-4, 10-3) at the top of the SEC standings.
"My goodness, what a gutty effort," East Ridge head coach Glen Wurm said. "We don't want overtime with that team, with our players playing as hard as they did for as long as they did. I thought just an incredibly gutty effort on our part to keep fighting and to keep scraping and to not give up when there were times when they had us against the ropes, and we were taking some shots."
Senior guards Noelle Tomes and Lauren Johnson each made two pressure-packed free throws in the final 23 seconds to lift the Raptors to a thrilling win.
And what a difference a week makes. A week ago Friday the Raptors walked off the floor disheartened after playing poorly in a 62-60 loss to Forest Lake.
This time the Raptors got to celebrate their best and most important win of the season.
"I'm feeling so good," senior post player Mariah Sexe said. "We needed this win for a lot of reasons. Obviously, we want that conference title, and we needed this win for that, but also just to know that this team, we're better than them and we know that. And we knew we needed to come out and play hard and that's exactly what we did, especially in the second half."
After missing a chance to win the game on a turnover near the end of regulation, the Raptors did just about everything right in the four-minute overtime.
East Ridge gave up two quick baskets to Roseville, but Kellen Kenol pulled the Raptors to within 60-58 by scoring with two minutes to play. Meaghan Rapp made one of two free throws to cut it to 60-59.
In a scramble for a loose ball on the next possession, Roseville's Kara Porter fouled out after scoring 22 points for the Raiders. That foul sent East Ridge star guard Noelle Tomes to the line with 1:22 left, and she drained both free throws for a 61-60 Raptors lead.
East Ridge's Kenol then fouled out at the defensive end, joining Mariah Sexe on the bench with 54 seconds to play. That meant the Raptors would have to win it with their two best post players riding the pine.
Roseville's Erin Hill made one free throw to tie the game at 61-all. That left it up to Tomes and then Johnson to win it at the line for the Raptors. Tomes drained two free throws with 23 seconds left. Following a tie-up, the possession arrow went to the Raptors, and Johnson knocked down two more free throws with 13 seconds to play for a four-point East Ridge lead.
"I just have to shoot it soft and make sure it goes in," Johnson said when asked what was going through her head as she stepped to the line for the final free throws.
"I think this really boosted our confidence," Johnson added. "We needed it after two losses last week. It will just help us moving forward."
Roseville missed a long shot in the final seconds, and it was party time for the Raptors.
Roseville led 28-22 at the half. The Raiders relentlessly harassed Tomes in the first half, refusing to give her any clean looks or clear paths to the basket. Every time she tried to drive, multiple defenders were waiting to stop her.
A clearly frustrated Tomes scored just three points in the first half — all on free throws — but she came back with a vengeance in the second half. The Raptors adjusted the offense out to give Tomes more room to maneuver, and she responded by scoring 24 points in the second half and the overtime.
Emma Stoehr had 12, while Johnson and Kenol added nine each and Sexe had seven.
"We were down by 10 a lot of the game, and then we really pushed in the second half to get it to tie to go into overtime," Stoehr said. "And then we really pushed through it with Mariah and Kelen both fouling out."
After being held to just 22 points in the first half, the Raptors got their offense clicking in the second and outscored Roseville 34-28 in the second and 43-33 the rest of the game. The Raptors started setting more screens for the guards, and that allowed Tomes and Stoehr to get the ball in much better position to drive and score. East Ridge also slapped a pressing defense on Roseville that more on less turned the game around.
"I think the first half we were forcing it a little too much on offense and not being patient like we should have been and on defense giving up too much, too easily," Sexe said.
It doesn't get any easier for the Raptors in their next game, at White Bear Lake (13-7, 8-3) Tuesday.
Roseville has three conference games left: at Forest Lake (6-7, 13-8), at Park (3-8, 9-12) and home against White Bear Lake (9-3, 17-5).