It was Juju McGrew to the rescue for the Pioneer girls basketball team Tuesday night.
Julia McGrew hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer to lift the No. 10-ranked Panthers to a 58-57 win over Wabash in the opening game of the Class 2A Lewis Cass Sectional.
McGrew, a sophomore reserve, was an unexpected hero as it was her first two points of the game. She entered with 23 points on the season in 22 games played.
But she was clutch when it counted most.
“It was just basketball,” McGrew said. “We go through form shooting and it was just all fundamental. We do a really good job.”
Sophomore Makenna Strycker had the assist. With 7.4 seconds left, Ashlynn Brooke inbounded the ball to Kylie Attinger, who got the ball to Strycker on the right wing. Strycker drove the middle of the court and found McGrew open near the left block. McGrew laid the ball in before the buzzer as the Panthers were able to celebrate a hard-fought sectional win.
The Apaches’ (15-8) box-and-one was effective for much of the night. But the Panthers (20-3) found a hole in the defense for the game-winner.
Brooke hit the game-winning shot in the state championship game two years ago. But Tuesday night she would have been forced to take a contested 20-footer if she would have gotten the ball late. Instead, Strycker found McGrew with an open look from point-blank range.
“On the very end, they were going to obviously come out at me,” Brooke said. “It’s a two-play, Kenna did a good job of penetrating and then they left Juju open and she knocked it down.”
The game looked like it was going to be a blowout early, as the Panthers jumped out to 26-8 lead early in the second quarter. But the Apaches’ box-and-one started taking hold and they started hitting shots at a good rate at the other end of the court. They ended the half with a 15-0 run over the final 3:42 to tie the game at 30-all at halftime.
The Panthers rested and regrouped and had another strong start to the second half as they took a 42-32 lead on a Brooke 3-pointer with 4:35 left in the third. But the Apaches again closed the quarter strong with an 8-0 run to get to within 42-40 after three.
The fourth quarter was back and forth. The Apaches took their first lead of the game at 48-46 on a Rylee Yoakum basket with 5:00 remaining. Brooke tied the game up on a 17-foot pullup. Paula Fernandez scored on a bucket-and-harm with 3:55 to go to give Pioneer a 50-48 lead.
Kait Honeycutt gave Wabash the lead right back with a pullup 3 in transition. Brooke answered with a face-up, 15-foot basket to give Pioneer a 52-51 lead. Honeycutt scored on a putback to give the lead back to Wabash.
The Apaches had chances to extend their lead, but Attinger came up with a blocked shot that led to a long pass from Brooke to Fernandez to give the Panthers a 54-53 lead with 1:39 remaining. Fernandez then went coast-to-coast for another score to put the Panthers up three with 1:15 to go.
Yoakum answered to bring Wabash to within one with 55 seconds left. The Panthers held the ball but Brooke lost control of it in the middle of the court and the Apaches pounced to force a jump ball and they had the possession arrow pointing their way. Fernandez was called for her fifth foul with 16.1 seconds left and Kierra Wilson made two free throws in the one-and-bonus to put Wabash up 57-56. Brooke drew a foul with 11.9 seconds but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Gracie Hopper came up with a loose-ball rebound on the miss and a jump ball was called, this time with the possession arrow pointing towards Pioneer with 7.4 seconds left. That set up the final sequence when Strycker found McGrew for the game-winner.
Brooke finished with 27 points and five assists to lead the Panthers. Fernandez had 14 points, four rebounds and six steals. Attinger had a double-double of 11 points and 11 boards. Strycker dished out six assists to go with two points. Crystabelle Blickenstaff chipped in two points.
“It was a dogfight. We knew that coming in,” Brooke said. “When we went up 16 in the first quarter, we knew they were going to come back. There was some miscommunication there in the second quarter, but luckily we came back.”
Honeycutt scored 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting including 3-of-5 from long range to lead the Apaches. Yoakum had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Wilson was also in double figures with 10 points. Jade Stumbo added five blocked shots in the middle of the Apaches’ box-and-one zone.
The Apaches shot 17 of 25 from the foul line to the Panthers’ 5 of 10. They also made six 3-pointers compared to three for the Panthers.
But the Panthers’ strong start led by their star player — with the help of key plays by their role players throughout — was enough to survive the Apaches.
The Panthers will likely have to run a gauntlet of strong defensive teams to win the sectional. They face county rival Lewis Cass (7-16) for the first time this season at 7:45 p.m. Friday in a semifinal. North Miami (17-5) plays Winamac (4-19) in the 6 p.m. semifinal. The final is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
LOGAN 55, MARION 17
Marion (1-22) was no match for Logansport (13-9) in a first-round game of the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Ten different players found the scoring column for the Berries. They were led by Gabby Richie’s 14 points, seven boards and three assists. Lydia Goad scored 13 points. Aracyn Good scored eight and Kellyn Cripe added seven. Ryann Wylie pulled down nine rebounds and Kendra Sutton added seven boards.
The Berries led 19-6 after one, 31-6 at halftime and 48-12 after three. They harassed the Giants into 18 turnovers and outscored them 21-0 on the 3-point line.
Logan plays Jeff (2-21) at 7:45 p.m. Friday in a semifinal. NCC champion Harrison (14-9) plays Kokomo (12-12) in the 6 p.m. semifinal. Kokomo avenged an earlier loss to McCutcheon with a 31-22 win Tuesday. The final is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
CARROLL 69, COVINGTON 30
The No. 6-ranked Cougars put up half a hundred by halftime and ripped Covington 69-30 in the opening game of the Class 2A Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional.
Carroll opened up a 28-10 lead after a quarter and was well in control up 50-16 at halftime. The Cougars led 61-26 after three quarters.
Alli Harness scored a game-high 27 points — and in the process, she became the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer. The junior guard has 1,596 career points and counting.
Also for the Cougars, Madison Wagner had 10 points, seven assists and four steals, Jamilah Tillman had nine points and nine rebounds and Emily Justice had nine points.
Carroll (21-3) advances to face Clinton Prairie (16-7) in a matchup of Hoosier Heartland Conference co-champions in Friday’s second semifinal at approximately 7:45 p.m. No. 13 Seeger (20-3) beat Delphi (10-14) 50-48 in Tuesday’s opener and advances to face No. 5 LCC (17-6) in Friday’s first semi at 6 p.m. Covington ended the season 8-15.
TWIN LAKES 76, N. MONTGOMERY 23
No. 1-ranked Twin Lakes improved to 24-0 with a blowout victory in the first game of the Class 3A Benton Central Sectional.
Olivia Nickerson had 22 points and nine steals for the Indians. Addie Bowsman had 21 points, 10 assists and five steals. Addi Ward was also in double figures with 10 points.
North Montgomery finishes 3-21.
Twin Lakes faces No. 8 West Lafayette (18-5) in a showdown at 6 p.m. Friday. The Indians have beaten the Red Devils twice this season — 60-45 on Nov. 15 at the IU Health Hoops Classic and 62-60 on Dec. 6 in a Hoosier Conference game.
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