SPRINGFIELD — Headed to overtime, after a furious, improbable comeback to even get there, East Clinton head coach Bill Bean broke the mood in the huddle by telling his team, “Just think, we’re having so much fun, we get to play four more minutes.”
The Astros made the most of those four minutes, never trailing in the extra period and leaving Marion Pleasant blue by handing the Spartans a 50-46 overtime loss in a Division III regional semifinal at Springfield High School Wednesday.
The Astros advance to the Elite 8 to face Cincinnati Purcell-Marian, ranked second in the final Associated Press Division III girls basketball poll, at 1 p.m. Saturday back at Springfield High School.
The Astros (21-5) led by as much as 49-42 with 33.6 seconds left in the game. Marion Pleasant (17-9), after being fouled on a three-point attempt with 24.3 left, dropped two of three free throws to make it 49-44. After a Jayden Murphy free throw, Whitney Waddell pulled the Spartans to within 50-46 with 15.7 left, and the Spartans would get no closer.
Overtime seemed like a distant thought in the first half. East Clinton scored six points in the first 50 seconds of the game, and then went the next 11 minutes without a field goal.
“We’ve got four girls who can shoot the three,” Bean said. “But we couldn’t buy a three. We told them at the end of the first quarter we have to be a little more selective and try to get it inside. If we don’t get it inside, then kick it back out. An inside out three is a good three. We’re good enough shooters; they’ll start falling. Keep having confidence. Eventually we’ll score.”
During East Clinton’s drought, Pleasant went on a 19-2 run to lead 19-8 midway through the second quarter. That would be the Spartans’ largest lead of the game.
Spartan Kayla Columber led all scorers with 21 points, 13 of them in the first half. Emerson Williams added 14, all but three of them in the first half.
“They just kept battling. These girls will never give up,” Bean said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. We were really in a similar situation tonight that we were Saturday (in the district title game versus Preble Shawnee). We had two girls who were killing us and we had to shut them down. And really this game went much like Saturday, we shut those two down in the second half. The two girls who really stepped it up on the defensive end were the two sophomores. Jordan (Collom) and Lauren (Runyon) did a great job on their two guards. They’re much like Preble; those guards are pretty darn good.”
East Clinton, trailing 28-19 at the intermission and giving up just a bucket in the third quarter, slowly chipped away at Pleasant’s lead. EC eventually caught and passed Pleasant on a Murphy three that put the Astros up 35-33 with three minutes to go in the contest.
The lead would change hands three times after that, with Avah Steele’s three putting Pleasant up 39-37 with 81 seconds left, Murphy returning the favor with a three off the glass to put EC up 40-39 with 70 seconds left, and then Whitney Waddell responding in kind to give the Spartans a 42-40 advantage.
Kelsi Lilly’s bucket with 0:19 left knotted the game at 42-42.
Pleasant’s game-tying shot attempt at the buzzer missed the mark to force overtime.
Three Astros reached double-figures with Evanshine leading the way with 16 points. Lauren Runyon added 13 and Murphy chipped in with 10.
March 2, 2022
Region 12 semifinal
@Springfield High School
East Clinton 50, Marion Pleasant 46
(50) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Collom 2-0-1-5 Evanshine 7-0-2-16 Whiteaker 0-0-0-0 Runyon 5-1-2-13 Lilly 2-0-2-6 Tong 0-0-0-0 Jones 0-0-0-0 Murphy 3-3-1-10 TOTALS 19-4-8-50
(46) PLEASANT (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Williams 5-2-2-14 Waddell 1-0-1-3 Ott 0-0-0-0 Columber 7-4-3-21 Simmons 0-0-0-0 Steele 1-1-5-8 Tipsword 0-0-0-0 TOTALS 14-7-11-46
FIELD GOALS: EC 19-40; MP 14-47
3 PT FIELD GOALS: EC 4-13; MP 7-24
FREE THROWS: EC 8-19; MP-11-17
REBOUNDS: EC-26 (Runyon 11, Evanshine 8, Lilly 2, Murphy 2, Jones 2); MP-36 (Waddell 10, Steele 9)
ASSISTS: EC-13 (Collom 3, Evanshine 3, Runyon 3, Whiteaker 2); MP-6
STEALS: EC-12 (Evanshine 5, Collom 3, Runyon 2); MP-7 (Waddell 3)
BLOCKED SHOTS: EC-5 (Evanshine 3); MP-2
TURNOVERS: EC-9, MP-17
Shawn Robinson covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01.