Several opposing coaches in the CHSAA have continually told me all season how hard Sacred Heart plays and how tough the Spartans are to beat. But they couldn't get that signature win against one of the better teams in the league.
Sacred Heart finally got it this afternoon with a 62-60 overtime road win over Kellenberg, which played without senior point guard Katie Cunningham for the second straight game because of a sprained left ankle.
Still, Sacred Heart ( 7-10, 4-8) showed it is better than the record shows. The win clinched a playoff berth. Sacred Heart has struggled down the stretch to close out games this season, but came through in overtime.
Liz Hauser scored six of her 22 points in overtime. Taylor Higgins scored 19 and Nina Corcoran added 12 points.
Hauser scored six consecutive points in overtime to give Sacred Heart the lead for good at 58-54. Kellenberg then cut it to one twice.
"Not only were her points valuable," Sacred Heart coach Marc Von Essen said, "but it’s the way she plays. She’s the toughest player on the court usually every game. We’ve stayed close, but we haven’t been able to close out games. The kids are young. We shot the ball better today. We found the open player."
Said Higgins: "We’ve been waiting for a win like this. This was huge. It’s been hard. We hang in for so long and fall in the end. A game like this helps before the playoffs."
The game was tight throughout. Kellenberg led 26-24 at the half before Sacred Heart used a 20-13 third quarter to take a 44-39 lead. It appeared Sacred Heart might crumble down the stretch after Emma O'Connor (23 points) hit a jumper with 2:32 left in regulation to give the Firebirds a 48-47 lead after they trailed for almost eight minutes.
Kristen Bent answered right back with a three-pointer and Bent then fed Higgins for a layup and a 52-48 lead. Khadijah Donaldson scored off a pass from O'Connor and O'Connor hit two free throws with 38 seconds left to tie the score at 52 and force overtime.
It just shows how tough and balanced the CHSAA is this season. Kellenberg is still the favorite going in because of its experience and the senior tandem of O'Connor and Cunningham, who guided the Firebirds to the CHSAA championship and Class A Federation state championship last season.But it wouldn't be surprising to see any of the playoff teams win it, especially the top four seeds.
It was also senior day for Kellenberg as O'Connor, Cunningham, Victoria Sindone and Meghan Leap were honored. Leap scored 15 points.
For more on the game, check Tuesday's Newsday.