HUNTINGTON, Ind. - Junior Amelia Echemann’s buzzer-beater in double overtime lifted the HU women’s basketball team past Grace College 76-74 Saturday afternoon at Platt Arena.
The Foresters (14-5), currently third in the league, improve to 6-2 in conference play and take a two-game lead over fourth place Marian and Grace (8-12, 4-4).
In true Crossroads fashion, it was a rollercoaster of emotion regardless of which team you were cheering for as the contest featured eight ties and four lead changes, most of which happened near the end of the contest.
The HU fans didn’t have as much to cheer about until the second overtime as the Foresters played catch up most of the afternoon. Huntington’s last lead prior the second OT was seven minutes into the contest when they enjoyed a slim 12-10 advantage at the 12:57 mark.
The Lancers’ defense got the best of HU in the first period as the hosts coughed up the ball 14 times, tallying more turnovers than field goals to find themselves down by seven, 33-26, by intermission. Pazia Speed was Huntington’s only bright spot in the first twenty minutes as she scored 14 points by going 6-for-10 from the field while the rest of her teamed combined to go a dismal 4-for-27.
The second half didn’t start off much better for the Foresters as Grace built a sizable lead of 37-26 by the 17:56 mark but HU wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. It took nearly 12 minutes but Coach Culler’s club kept whittling away at the lead until chopping it in half at 56-50 with just over six minutes remaining.
Both teams went cold after that as the scored remained at 56-50 for the next three minutes until freshman Miranda Palmer and Speed combined to go 5-for-6 from the charity stripe to pull HU within one at 56-55 with just over two minutes remaining.
After going nearly five minutes without a field goal, the Lancers finally scored with 44 seconds remaining to go up by three at 58-55 setting up the first of three last second clutch shots by the Foresters.
Palmer was the hero in regulation, draining the long ball with 22 ticks remaining to send the game to OT as GC wasn’t able to get a clean look on the half’s final possession.
The Lancers took charge of the first overtime, building their advantage to four with just over a minute remaining but Speed answered 15 seconds later by scoring her seventh point of the extra period to pull her team within two at 67-65 to set up another heroic finish by Culler’s squad.
After HU’s swarming defense forced a five-second call, Amelia Recker penetrated the length of the lane for an easy lay-up with less than ten seconds to go to extend the game by another five minutes as Grace failed to get a shot off in the waning seconds.
The Foresters finally took their first lead in over 33 minutes when Courtney Baker scored her only field goal of the contest to open up the second overtime. HU never trailed the rest of the way. The Lancers would knot things up three times in the final 3:30 with the last deadlock coming at the 1:31 mark but HU finally outlasted their visitors as Echemann’s game-winner at the buzzer proved to be the game’s final score.
Speed topped all scorers with 30 points which included going 12-for-14 from the free throw line. She also hauled in six rebounds and handed out four assists.
Palmer added 18 points. The 5-6 freshman guard played anything like a rookie as 14 of her points came in the final 16 minutes of play. In addition to hitting that clutch three at the end of regulation, she also tickled the twine for five points in the final overtime.
Recker tossed in 11 points and corralled a team-high nine boards to finish one rebound shy of a double double.
Allison Kauffman came up big for Grace, scoring a career-best 29 points and ripping down 11 rebounds. Juaneice Jackson and JoEllen Fickel added 14 and 12 points respectively to round out the Lancers’ double digit scoring.
It was a sloppy game as HU committed 24 miscues while their visitors finished with 23.
The Lancers outshot HU, shooting 44.4 percent for the game to HU’s 43.1 percent. Grace also out-rebounded their hosts 46-32 but the difference came at the charity stripe where Huntington lived up to their No. 2 ranking by shooting 81.5 percent (22-for-27) while their counterparts converted only 16 of their 25 attempts.
The #RV Foresters will have their hands full Wednesday night when they travel to #1 Saint Francis for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.