PONTIAC — Much as they have all year long, the Fieldcrest Lady Knights fought their way through a hard-nosed, close game.
This time it was against rival El Paso-Gridley for the third time this season and also for a regional championship ... and once again the Lady Knights came away with the victory, 37-32, to claim the Pontiac 2A Regional championship Friday night.
“Absolutely incredible night for this program,” Lady Knights coach Mitch Neally said. “The girls have really bought into what we have done the past five years, and to come away with back-to-back regional titles and a share of the conference title as well is tremendous.
"Words can’t describe how this feels.”
Ella Goodrich was a sparkplug for the Lady Knights (28-4) once again, as she drained a 3-pointer at the start of the game. Shortly after that, Nevada Park had a nice bounce pass into the post to Samantha Baker and the next possession got an offensive rebound and a 3-pointer to put Fieldcrest up 8-2.
“It was a nice start to the game,” Park said. “I thought our defense is what got us going and what won it for us. I take a lot of pride in that, and I know the team does too.”
Near the end of the quarter it was Hannah Baker with the offensive rebound and putback to give the Lady Knights a 10-4 lead after the first.
Addison Benedict used a runner down the middle of the lane then to give the Lady Titans a 14-12 advantage in the second, but it was Baker once again with the offensive rebound and putback for the Lady Knights to tie the game at halftime 14-14.
To start the second half, Goodrich drove right to the hoop to give the Lady Knights a 16-14 leadm and shortly afterward Goodrich went to the line, where she continued her solid shooting and pushed the lead to 18-14.
The Lady Titans would respond again and take a 20-18 lead. Then it was the Lady Knights' turn to go on a mini-run, with Goodrich hitting a 3-pointer and then another big offensive rebound and putback from Baker at the buzzer to give Fieldcrest a 23-22 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“Once again, anytime we got in a tough spot we turned things around with defense,” Alyx Carls said. “We went on a couple of runs there, but it was the defense that got it started for us.”
After hitting the shot at the end of the quarter, Baker hit a bunny to start the fourth. Goodrich hit two more free throws to go ahead three points once again. Parks hit two big free throws, and then Zada Baker drained a wide-open layup on tan out-of-bounds play to put the Lady Knights ahead 31-28.
Next time down the floor, Zada Baker got a huge offensive rebound off a Hannah Baker missed shot, and then Hannah Baker returned the favor with an offensive board off a Zada Baker missed 3-pointer to keep possession away from the Lady Titans.
“Coach is always telling us about positioning,” Zada Baker said. “I got a couple there in the fourth and was just boxed out, and did what I had to do.”
Off that Hannah Baker rebound, Goodrich got the bucket and the foul for the three-point play to go ahead 34-28 with less than two minutes left.
“It’s kind of funny about the free throws though,” Goodrich said. “Around 50% for the year, but the last two games we shot free throws before the game and I was able to go 12 of 12, so I think I’ll keep that going before games.”
El Paso-Gridley was not about to go away, though, cutting the deficit to 34-32. But Ashlyn May stepped to the line and hit both foul shots, then Park hit 1 of 2 to seal the victory.
“It is amazing,” Ellen Hood said. “To win back-to-back regional titles is a great feeling.”
Fieldcrest — led by Goodrich with 13 and Baker with 12 — heads to the Wilmington 2A Sectional on Tuesday, where they will face Joliet Catholic in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
Fieldcrest 37, El Paso-Gridley 32
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
EL PASO-GRIDLEY (32) — Oms 2-8 4-4 8, Graham 1-4 0-0 2, Tipler 0-2 0-0 0, Cannon 6-9 0-0 12, Benedict 2-7 0-0 4, Kelly 1-5 0-0 2, Schaffer 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 14-38 4-4 32.
FIELDCREST (37) — Carls 0-6 0-1 0, Park 1-2 3-4 6, H. Baker 6-11 0-0 12, Vasquez 1-4 0-0 2, Z. Baker 1-3 0-2 2, May 0-2 2-2 2, Goodrich 3-9 5-5 13. Totals 12-37 10-14 37.
El Paso-Gridley 4 10 8 10 — 32
Fieldcrest (28-4) 10 4 9 14 — 37
3-point goals - El Paso-Gridley 0-5 (Benedict 0-2, Kelly 0-2, Schaffer 0-1); Fieldcrest 3-12 (Carls 0-4, Park 1-1, H. Baker 0-2, Z. Baker 0-1, May 0-1, Goodrich 2-3). Rebounds - El Paso-Gridley 19 (Oms 5); Fieldcrest 26 (Park 6, Carls 5, H. Baker 5). Total Fouls - El Paso-Gridley 11; Fieldcrest 9.
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