DI Girls: LeDuc, Shoregals do it again, stun Eagles
Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
With the score tied at 49 and less than 14 seconds left in regulation, Avon Lake’s Lacy LeDuc took the ball in the backcourt and quickly made her way up the floor.
As the clock ticked down, just about everybody in the Elyria Catholic Coliseum was on the edge of their seats.
Weaving her way through the Avon defense as if it were an obstacle course, LeDuc made her way to the basket. The senior kissed the ball off the glass and got the shot to fall with five ticks left, giving Avon Lake a come-from-behind 51-49 win in a Division I sectional final Saturday afternoon.
The Shoregals, who knocked off Elyria in overtime earlier in the week, claimed a sectional title and moved on to district play. They’ll take on top-seeded Magnificat, which opened its post season with an easy 59-26 win over North Olmsted in Saturday’s second game.
“It was weird, because it seemed so wide open,” said LeDuc, who had also hit a driving layup to give her team a brief 49-48 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
“I don’t know. It was kind of really surreal hitting the last shot with five seconds left,” LeDuc said. “I’m just happy it went in. Then after that, I was thinking that if we give them enough backcourt pressure with five seconds, they’re probably going to have to launch one.
“I don’t think there was enough time to actually set something up, unless you have a wide open layup. I was OK with it, but anything could have happened,” she added.
LeDuc almost didn’t make it to the end of the game, picking up her fourth foul with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Avoiding her fifth foul almost seemed a mute point in the fourth quarter, with Avon holding a 47-39 lead with just under three minutes left in the game.
As it turned out, the Shoregals weren’t quite ready to give up the ship.
A fast break hoop from Kim Zelonis and a one-and-one conversion from Emily Nicholas cut the Eagles’ lead to four, 47-43, with 1:49 left. Then LeDuc went to work, scoring a fast break hoop off a steal, drawing the foul and making the free throw. With 1:28 left, it was still anybody’s game at 47-46.
During that run, Avon had missed the front end of two one-and-ones and was turning the ball over at inopportune times. Still, Natalie Wilden was able to get a split at the line with 1:03 remaining to push the Eagle lead back up to two.
LeDuc split a pair of freebies, then Avon was whistled for an offensive foul with 38 second left. After a timeout, LeDuc took matters into her own hands and found her way to the hoop to give Avon Lake its first lead since early in the second quarter.
Avon’s leading scorer, Emily Julius, was fouled and split her two free throws with 13.9 seconds left to tie the score at 49. With the noise level in the Coliseum rising, LeDuc again moved the ball up the floor, this time for the game winner.
Avon, which turned the ball over 31 times in the game, lost control of the ball by its own basket in the final second to seal the win for the Shoregals.
“We could have quit at any time, so I give the girls credit,” said Avon Lake head coach Dave Zvara, whose team improved to 12-10 on the season.
“Even though we were down, I told the girls ‘hey, let’s not quit.’ We were in the same situation on Monday. I wanted all five of them out there to do the best they could and see what happens. I told them ‘keep digging, keep digging.’
“We didn’t play very good defense today, but we came together at the end. We did a great job on the boards down the stretch too. And Lacy is a great player. Great players step up to finish games off like that, and she did. She wants the ball. She’s a great ball handler too, probably the best press breaker I’ve got,” he said with that trademark Zvara grin.
LeDuc led all scorers with 25 points, 12 of them coming in the fourth quarter despite the foul trouble. She also chipped in under the boards with six rebounds, while Nicholas had seven points and six rebounds.
“I’m used to playing with three or four fouls come the fourth quarter in just about all of my games,” Leduc said. “It’s rare of I don’t have at least three in the fourth quarter. But it’s easy for me to know when to hold back or when to go for it.
“This is awesome. We lost to Avon in the regular season, so this was a big deal to come here, in the tournament especially, and beat them. Avon’s a great team, so it’s really a great win for us,” she added.
For Avon, Julius led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Brianna Conroy and Sierra Davidson each added eight points.
“We talked about taking care of the basketball in our pregame talk and during halftime,” said Eagles head coach Meghan Banks, whose team had 11 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
“Avon Lake is very good defensively, and they’ll take advantage of turnovers. They were able to execute off our turnovers and finish, and that’s why they came out on top. I know we have four seniors, but overall we’re a young team and the kids were nervous coming in today after 10 days off. We knew we had a few jitters to get out of the way before we would start to play well.
“Our kids stepped up and played with heart, but Avon Lake played a little bit harder and got the win today,” she added.
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