PRINCETON-- There have been exactly 0 overtime games involving any Gibson County basketball teams this season.
That changed Saturday, when Princeton and Washington battled it out for 32 minutes and were unable to decide a winner. The Lady Tigers were able to push through in the four-minute extra period to win 56-54, behind a 30-point performance from sophomore Hannah Sisk.
"Huge, huge, huge," Princeton coach Brittany Maners said of the victory. "We talked about with these last three conference games that we want to get two out of three. We're fighting for it and I'm proud of our girls and our effort."
It was those Lady Tigers who delivered the opening blow, as they were coming off a conference loss to Vincennes Lincoln Thursday. Princeton led 18-11 after the first quarter, thanks to three 3-pointers, two coming from sophomore Reaghan Page, who typically scores by slashing to the basket.
"I think we had a lot of things clicking for us in the first quarter. It always helps when you knock down big shots and Reaghan Page hit some big shots from the outside," Maners said.
It's a retired phrase in basketball, but it's true, it's a game of runs. Princeton jumping out to a seven point lead was big, but Washington dominated the second quarter. They scored 14 points in those eight minutes, while the Lady Tigers did not score. It was the Hatchets packing the lane, with a man-to-man defense and disrupting the timing of the Princeton offense. They led 25-18 at the halftime break.
"We were forcing a lot. We were forcing that lob pass (into the post) and it was not there. So we just talked about how we can spread the floor out, and I thought we needed to get Hannah more aggressive. She came out in the second half and was much more aggressive and that obviously helps things," Maners said.
Sisk came into the game averaging 17.6 points per contest, and she topped that in the second half alone. It was a battle between her and Washington's Kencia Levasseur, who's just a freshman but played big down low and dominated the offensive glass for the Lady Hatchets.
"(Rebounding) is something we talked about and we did it really well at Vincennes, and they were twice our size. These guys weren't. (Washington) fought. I mean they fought for those rebounds and used their body well," Maners said.
Sisk scored seven in the third quarter, to push her total to a modest 13. She proceeded to explode in the fourth, scoring Princeton's first 14 points in the frame. She hit 3-pointers, pull-ups, free throws and everything in between to push the Lady Tigers back into the lead.
With 48 seconds to play, the game was knotted at 49. Both teams had looks at winning it in regulation, but ultimately were unable to score as the game went to overtime tied at 49.
Sisk converted a three-point play, while Page got an offensive rebound and putback off a free throw to score the first five points of the extra period and give Princeton a 54-49 lead with less than one minute to play. Levasseur wasn't done however, as she converted a three-point play of her own to get the Hatchets within two with seven seconds left.
A Princeton turnover on the press gave Washington the ball back with seven ticks left under their own basket and down just two points. The Lady Hatchets had multiple chances at it, gathering two offensive rebounds in that short time, but Princeton was able to hold on for the two-point victory.
It was Sisk's second half that really sparked the Lady Tigers, as she got aggressive and took over the game. This was something Maners and her staff were pushing the sophomore to do. Simply shoot the ball more.
"I think she got her confidence and became aggressive at the right time. We can always count on somebody from our team to step up, I think that's what made that win so special. At different points, we had probably six or seven different players that stepped up and got us that win," Maners said.
Page, who battled foul trouble all night, finished with 12 points for Princeton, to go with some key rebounds. Levasseur had 20 for Washington, while Lindsay Moody had 12 and Alaina Thorne had 11 for the Lady Hatchets, who drop to 2-2 in the Big Eight race.
Special and huge are excellent words to describe the importance of the win for Princeton, as they have now separated themselves from the pack to take sole possession of second in the conference. The Lady Tigers are 11-5, 4-1 in the Big Eight and trail just Jasper who sits at 3-0 in the league. Princeton still has to play Jasper, a senior night game for the Lady Tigers on Jan. 22.
Thus, they control their own destiny in terms of a chance to win the Big Eight title. A win against Jasper means a championship, regardless of the outcome of any other games. First, they'll be tested again Tuesday, when they travel to 1A No. 2 Vincennes Rivet for a 7 p.m.