MONROE—It may be hard to believe that the most electrifying moment in an overtime game came not at the end of either regulation or OT, but at the close of the third quarter. However, it was true at Adams Central on Wednesday night.
The Lady Jets overcame pesky, scrappy Bluffton, 57-53, in the ACAC Tourney and wound up tied with the Lady Tigers at 48 at the end of the fourth period thanks to a miracle shot for all time.
In 40 years of reporting boys' and girls' basketball at AC, I have never seen anything like the one-handed, 50-foot heave unleashed by Central junior Alyssa Keller as the horn sounded to end the quarter. The ball arced perfectly for a swish and, as it came down the pipe, up rose the applauding and yelling fans at the longest such shot made by any AC player (male or female) in at least four decades. (On top of that, Keller's mother was AC's scorekeeper for the game.)
Keller's killer gave AC a 35-33 lead entering the fourth period and helped the Lady Jets move to the second round of the tourney to play Leo's Lady Lions at 5 p.m. today in Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum.
Last night's game featured 15 lead changes and 10 ties and ended with another first in my 40 years of sports reporting: the game's last shot, a corner three by Bluffton's Leslee Peeper, in the final second bounced high off the rim and carefully rolled to a stop atop the steel frame of the glass backboard, some 15 feet above the floor. Spectators took cellphone photos of the ball at rest before it was retrieved.
"Our kids had to go out and earn it," said very pleased AC coach Sam Beer, whose squad is 6-8. The Lady Jets beat Bluffton on December 18 by six points. The Lady Tigers are 2-13.
Beer said he was impressed by the effort and will his players put forth "just to survive and mentally stay in it" to the end.
He admitted that Bluffton's zone defense hampered AC and said the Jets did not play well defensively, although they amassed 22 steals, led by nine by Bess Fiechter.
Beer did single out two players: junior Jenae Blackburn, whose 19 points included three for five in threes and five for nine in twos, and Madison Carroll, whose 13 points included the first trey she has made this year (after missing 12 times). Carroll's triple was dramatic: a top-of-the-key dagger that lifted AC to a 53-50 OT lead that it did not relinquish.
"Jenae was in a groove" offensively, said Beer, and he was very glad she was. Blackburn also had three steals.
Central also had to overcome an odd halftime disparity in free throws: AC was perfect at zero for zero and Bluffton was likewise at 14 for 14! The halftime score was 25-20, Bluffton, which went four for 10 at the line in the second half.
Carroll had five rebounds, three assists, and three steals; Keller finished with 11 points, three rebounds, three steals, and two assists; and Fiechter put up six points and seven rebounds.
Bluffton got 21 points (nine for nine in FTs) and 14 rebounds from Gina Eisenhut; 11 points, three rebounds, and three steals from Skila Betancourt; and 10 points, eight rebounds, and three steals from Kara Fiechter.
The fourth quarter had two lead swaps and three ties, with AC missing two shots underneath in the last 10 seconds and Peeper's three-point try at the horn missing.
In the OT, Fiechter's layup made it 50-48, Bluffton, but Blackburn tied it 18 seconds later on a 18-footer. Carroll's key three made it 53-50 at 1:55, but Eisenhut's layup at 1:35 closed the gap to 53-52.
Blackburn answered with a 16-foot goal at 1:15 for a 55-52 lead and Betancourt made one of two foul shots at 41.3 seconds for a 55-53 margin.
Bluffton's Leah Tullis misfired twice at the stripe at 19.3 seconds to keep AC up two, then Carroll notched the game's final points at the line at 13.9 seconds.
Two missed threes by Bluffton brought the game to a conclusion.
Now, said Beer, it's on to Fort Wayne for the first time in a long time for AC's girls' varsity. As he stated, "This is the ACAC Tournament. This is different; it's something special. We have such a nice conference and the Coliseum is a wonderful thing."
Central 2G 3G FT TP
Macklin 1-9 0-2 0-0 2
M.Carroll 3-10 1-1 4-4 13
Keller 4-10 1-3 0-0 11
Fiechter 3-6 0-0 0-0 6
Blackburn 5-9 3-6 0-0 19
McDougall 2-6 0-0 0-2 4
Fox 1-2 0-0 0-0 2
K.Carroll 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Totals 19-52 5-11 4-6 57
Bluffton 2G 3G FT TP
Mettler 1-2 0-0 2-2 4
Fiechter 3-8 0-1 4-6 10
L.Tullis 1-2 0-3 0-3 2
LaVine 0-0 0-1 0-0 0
Sh.Steffen 0-3 0-0 0-0 0
Betancourt 5-7 0-1 3-4 13
Eisenhut 6-10 0-0 9-9 21
Peeper 0-1 1-3 0-0 3
Totals 16-33 1-9 18-24 53
Fouls: AC 17, B 11
Turnovers: AC 19, B 34
Rebounds: AC 29 (Fiechter 7, Carroll 5), B 42 (Eisenhut 14, Fiechter 8)
Steals: AC 22 (Fiechter 9), B 11 (Fiechter 3, Betancourt 3)
Assists: AC 8 (Carroll 3), B 5 (Mettler 2)
Score By Quarters
B 9 16 8 15 5 53
AC 10 10 15 13 9 57