Kelly’s buzzer-beater extends game, Dragons prevail in OT
Stephanie Kelly already had a pair of chances to tie Tiffin University’s game with Walsh with a 3 in the final seconds of regulation.
Incredibly, the senior got a third one.
She made the most of it.
With the Dragons trailing the Cavaliers 51-48 and 17 seconds remaining, Kelly attempted a 3. It missed. Teammate Melissa Gilliland was able to get the ball and push it back out to Kelly, who missed again. Tiffin’s Jessica Harris then tipped the ball to Macy Byrd, who – thankfully for the Dragons – missed a two-pointer. With the clock drifting perilously close to the buzzer, Harris somehow grounded the ball out to Kelly again on the left wing. Kelly took a quick step back, barely getting behind the 3-point line, and launched.
“Steph,” said teammate Erica Mathis, “is clutch.”
The buzzer sounded as the ball carried through the air, falling directly into the hoop.
For her part, Kelly – who finished just 2 of 10 from 3-point range – said she wasn’t even sure if the game-tying shot was a 3.
“It thought I didn’t even hit a 3,” she said. “I thought it was a 2. I thought my foot was on the line. But I looked over at the ref, and her hands were up.”
The Dragons celebrated, then carried that momentum into the extra session.
Mathis, in what was perhaps the biggest game of her career, had a key stick-back with four minutes left, giving the Dragons a lead that, as it turned out, they never relinquished. The Dragons also came up big at the line in OT, making 8 of 10 free throws to fight off Walsh, 65-60.
Kelly finished with a team best 16 points to go with four assists, one of three TU (11-12, 8-11 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) players to score in double digits.
“Steph has been one, like Erica said, to step up for us,” TU coach Pam Oswald said.
Mathis also stepped up. The forward is averaging only about two points and two rebounds a game, but finished Saturday with seven points and eight boards in 14 minutes, which included some key plays in overtime.
“She was able to give us a little spark when she was in there,” Oswald said. “She brings a different dimension to the post play. She had a little extra hop in her step there, and is able to get to the other side of the rim a little bit quicker than most post players. She definitely came up huge for us today.”
Mathis credited her teammates for her numbers.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice, and we feed off of each other,” Mathis said. “I was feeding off everybody else’s energy and putting it into the game.”
Gilliland had 12 points and seven rebounds for TU, with teammate Jillian Adams recording 11 points and five boards.
Harris, who fouled out in overtime, had a game-best 12 rebounds to go with seven points.
Despite the exciting conclusion, the game itself was far from a thing of beauty. Walsh and Tiffin combined for 53 turnovers – the Dragons had 26 – and TU shot just 8 of 31 (25.8 percent) in the second half.
The Dragons were without Jordan Fraley for the second consecutive game. Fraley suffered an injury against Findlay last week. Oswald said TU still is looking for someone else to take charge.
That’s what we’re continuing to look for,” she said. “Being able to be comfortable when (opponents) are bringing pressure, we have to continually work on.”
Walsh (7-15, 4-14) was led by Tracy Payne, who scored 21 points, and Whitney Dabbelt, who had 12 rebounds to go with six points.
Rachael Trujillo (12 points) and Maggie Ferry (10) also scored in double figures for the Cavaliers.
Walsh trailed 30-21 at halftime, but rallied to take a 48-42 lead when Dabbelt split a pair of free throws with 4:14 left in regulation.
TU, which at that point hadn’t scored in three minutes, was able to fight back and end its two game losing streak.
“Our kids really dug in and saw it the whole way through,” Oswald said.