In 2006, the Bishop Ireton Cardinals swept the OConnell Knights in three games including a VISSA playoff game. Last weekend the Knights appeared poised to end the streak as OConnell built a 16 point lead in the second half. Then the Ireton defense came alive and the Cardinals played with more intensity down the stretch.
With just 10.7 seconds remaining, the Cardinals inbounded the ball. The Knights applied immense pressure and nearly caused a five second violation. The Cardinals were able to get the ball in, but then the Knights defensive pressure resulted in a scrum for the ball. Ireton guard Rachel Martin was able to push the ball out to guard Alana Thurmond who scooped up the ball, raced down the court and hit a 13-foot pull up jumper to give Ireton a 65-63 lead with just 3.4 seconds to go, which was not enough for the Knights, who were out of timeouts, to get up a realistic shot.
I was thinking about calling a timeout because we are trapped and it looks like a turnover, Ireton head coach Mike Hutton said. Just before I did, Rachel found Alana. I always say you have to be a playmaker and Alana was in the clutch tonight.
When I put up that last shot I was just thinking, I am not losing to OConnell on our home court, Thurmond added.
The first half was a stalemate. The Knights led at intermission 29-26. The Knights controlled the tempo of the game through the first 20 minutes of the game. Knights guards Meg Lagos (14points)and Shannon Tumezly (13points) combined for six three-pointers. Meanwhile, the Knights controlled the paint with penetration by forwards Destiny Shearin (12 points) and Meredith Mesakis (13 points).
The Knights defense also played well. OConnell kept a shadow on Martin throughout the half, and rolled their defense to forward Mary Kate Curry (11 points) every time she touched the ball. With the Cardinals top two options blanketed, guard Nadia Cathan( 12 points) stepped up. Cathan emerged as the third option and played the role of banker. Cathan hit bank shots from close range and three point land.
They were doubling Mary Kate and Rachel every time they touched it, Cathan said. I had to step it up and make plays. Like coach always says be a playmaker, thats all I was trying to do.
After halftime, the stalemate was broken as OConnell went on a 18- 6 run build a 16 point lead by using a balanced attack. The Lagos and Tumezly each struck from three point range, while Shearin and Mesakis scored 10 points during the run.
At the end of the third quarter, Ireton finally ended the streak when guard Mariana Habib hit a pull up jumper for two, then Cathan drove to the rim and hit a layup to cut the deficit to 10 points going into the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals were able to make a comeback run when head coach Mike Hutton made a shrewd decision and changed up his defense into a to a 2-1-2 full court press defense.
We couldnt throw the ball in the ocean tonight, Hutton said. On defense we got turnovers and we were able to score in transition. We went to a 2-1-2 full court press and it disrupted their flow. It brought out our assertiveness and it disrupted what they were trying to do.
The Cardinals opened up the final quarter on a 11-6 run. The Cardinals made six steals, including three by Curry. All six steals led directly to points. The run set Ireton up in ideal position, trailing by three with just 3:35 to go. Thurmond drained a three-pointer, her first clutch shot of the game, which tied it at 55.
It was all about our defense, Curry said. Our 2-1-2 defense caused I dont know how many steals. We were able to bring ourselves back. We just wanted it more.
Thurmonds shot was followed up by a three by Habib to give Ireton a 58-55 lead with under three minutes to play. The Knights answered back with an unorthodox three-point play. Shearin drove to the basket and hit one-of-two free throws, then the Knights rebounded the miss and Mesakis hit a put-back to tie the game at 58.
With both team committing fouls, the Cardinals came out on top as the Cardinals went a combined 5 of 6 from the charity stripe, including 4 of 4 made free throws by Martin, to keep Ireton ahead by three at 63-60 with less than 45 seconds to go.
The Knights tied the game back up when Mesakis hit a shot in the paint, and an Ireton turnover. The turnover allowed Shearin to drive to the basket in the open court. Shearin was fouled on her way to the basket and made just one-of-two free throws to tie the game at 63.