With its season on the line, Washington made big plays down the stretch.
Facing an 11-point deficit early in the third quarter against fourth-seeded Lebanon, the second-seeded Lady Jays kick things into gear and captured the Class 5 District 10 Tournament title Thursday at Northwest High School in dramatic fashion, 50-48.
“It’s one of those games that these kids will remember forever,” said Washington Head Coach Adam Fischer. “After we went 21-4 in the regular season, we talked about how the memories really start now. Probably every kid in that locker room will remember this game for the rest of their lives.”
Washington (23-4) advances to the Class 5 sectional round after winning its first district girls basketball championship since 2004.
“I don’t think many of us have thought about the next one. We just wanted to win this game. That’s been our goal,” said Washington senior guard Courtney Kedroski. “Now that we’ve accomplished that, we have all weekend and a few days next week to prepare.”
The Lady Jays travel to Camdenton High School to play the winner of the District 9 championship game between Rock Bridge (22-3) and Hickman (24-1), which will be played Saturday at Rock Bridge at 5 p.m.
“They have four losses between them and one of Rock Bridge’s losses is to an Incarnate Word team that doesn’t lose to many people,” Fischer said. “We’re ready for a challenge. We want to go there, compete and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Lady Jays will be up for the challenge.
“It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to the game,” said Washington freshman guard Kya Hardesty. “It will be great competition for us.”
Lebanon tied the game 48-48 on a basket by Ashton Light with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Instead of calling a timeout, the Lady Jays played on.
Kya Hardesty quickly moved the ball up the floor and got it to Paige Carpenter, who drove toward the center of the lane and knocked down a shot near the foul line with 1.2 seconds remaining, giving the Lady Jays the lead, and eventually the win.
Lebanon called a timeout, having to go the full length of the floor, and didn’t get much of a chance as the final buzzer sounded.
“That’s not an easy shot that Paige made, a little floater from about 10 feet away, and it went right in,” Fischer said.
“We had to get a shot off. Time was running out,” Carpenter said. “I just drove and had an open shot and took it. I said to myself that it was going in. Fortunately, it did.”
Hardesty led the way for Washington with 19 points. She made three of four free throws in the final 48 seconds and also had a key three-point play with 2:59 to play, which gave her team a 45-42 lead at the time.
“I was just thinking that I had to make those free throws,” Hardesty said. “We work on free throws all the time at practice and that helps a lot during games.”
Carpenter finished the game with 14 points. Kedroski added 12 points.
Also scoring were Rachel Kackley with two points, Megan Freitag with two points and Emma Boehmer with one point. Megan Bauche did not score, but played a key defensive role.
Kackley recently reached 500 career rebounds.
Lebanon (12-14) was led by Maggie Vaughn, who scored 18 points.
“We had a few game films on them, and most of them were from the last month. They’ve gotten 100 times better,” Fischer said of Lebanon. “They’re all young. Their best players are a freshman, sophomore and junior. They’re going to be around for a while.”
It was a rough first half for the Lady Jays, who trailed 14-13 after one quarter and 24-16 at half, managing just three points in the second quarter.
“We had a bad half. It’s not like we had terrible shots in the first half. There’s something about that end of the gym. We didn’t make shots on that end all week. We let our post players just stand there and we never gave them the ball. We just passed the ball around the outside, which isn’t hard to guard,” Fischer said. “When we finally got the ball inside in the second half, they had to respect that, and our kids slipped to the corners and we knocked down some shots.”
Trailing 27-16 with 7:08 left in the third quarter, Washington finally got hot from the outside, finishing the quarter on a 20-7 run to grab a 36-34 advantage.
“We needed to get the ball to the high post and work it out. That’s what we did and we started hitting shots,” Kedroski said. “In the first half, we weren’t hitting anything. In the second half, we hit everything. Once we set our feet, we starting making them.”
Carpenter drilled three three-pointers in the third quarter, Kedroski nailed a couple and Hardesty added one.
“We played with a lot more energy in the second half,” Carpenter said.
“In the second half, we did a lot better job playing loose and playing our game,” Hardesty said. “Seeing the ball go through the basket helped us.”
Both teams held the lead in a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
Washington trailed 40-36 with 5:11 left to play, but back-to-back three-pointers by Hardesty and Kedroski quickly erased that deficit.
“The last thing we said leaving the locker room before the game was a year ago, we felt awfully bad after this game. We want a different feeling this time. Our girls went out there and made it happen. The coaches didn’t do that, the players did,” Fischer said. “We met about three weeks after that Waynesville game last year and said that’s not a good feeling, let’s get after it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I probably had 90 percent of the kids there all summer working for this moment.”