JUDSONIA — The Class 2A East Region title game went in favor of the St. Joseph girls this time around.
The Lady Bulldog’s Brooke Enderlin split a double-team attempt with 3.1 seconds left and banked through a short-ranged leaner, giving St. Joseph a 54-52 victory over Conway Christian in the championship bout at White County Central on Saturday.
The game-winning basket came on the heels of Conway Christian’s Alexi Gaither’s two made free throw attempts with 10 seconds left. St. Joseph inbounded the ball after the last free throw attempt, and Jessie Moix advanced the ball to midcourt, where she hit Enderlin streaking along the left sideline heading east to west. Once Enderlin had the ball, she knew exactly what the plan was.
"I was either hoping to draw a foul or hoping to get a good shot," Enderlin said. "It just got the right bounce and went in. Anytime we can get a win against Conway Christian then it’s always big."
St. Joseph (27-3) led for most of the contest but relinquished its lead after the Lady Eagles’ Bre’Anna Hobbs, who had a team-high 15 points, hit a turnaround bank shot near the goal with 41 seconds left. Enderlin then popped a 3-pointer in the right wing with 20 seconds left, putting the Lady Bulldogs back ahead at 52-50.
"We didn’t want to call timeout on that last play. Some people like to call timeout in that situation, but we had decided that we were just going to go with it and try to get a shot off," St. Joseph coach Chris Kordsmeier said. "This was a great game and you have to give Conway Christian credit. This really bodes well for basketball in Faulkner County to have a rivalry like this. ... It was a game of runs."
Conway Christian (24-5) beat the Lady Bulldogs in the district tournament final, but with this win by St. Joseph it evened up the series at 2-2. Each team has alternated between the wins and losses. For Conway Christian, Christina DenHartog and Mallory Clutts ended up with 13 and 10 points.
"It was a really tough game," Conway Christian coach Ashley Nance said. "St. Joseph is a great team, and you have to give them props. We got down by 10 points at halftime, and it’s always tough to come back on them when you dig a whole that big. But, to the credit of our girls, we were able to get back in the game. We didn’t make the free throws down the stretch and it’s hard to win when you miss free throws."
The Lady Bulldogs’ leading scorer was Heather Moix with 16. Enderlin and Kelsey Davidson ended up with 14 and 11, respectively.
Apparently, the St. Joseph boys didn’t take Friday night’s loss too well.
The Bulldogs smacked Clarendon 77-44 in Saturday’s matchup at White County Central for third place in the Class 2A East Region.
Prior to the game, St. Joseph coach Brent Bruich talked about how his ball club needed to come out with a chip on their shoulders.
The entire team got his message.
St. Joseph (26-7) forced 17 turnovers and four players scored in double-figures, turning in its best defensive performance of the tournament, according to Bruich. Tyler Jones was red hot from the field, leading the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points. St. Joseph’s Marcus Kordsmeier scored 13 points. St. Joseph got 12 points from an unusual suspect, Grant Smith, and Cash Schichtl added another 10.
"That loss was hard on us," Jones said. "We knew that we needed to come out and get a win so that we could get that third seed for the state tournament. We’re ready to make a run through the state tournament now."
Even though the Bulldogs couldn’t come away with regional tournament championship, they have many players with state tournament experience, after claiming the state title last spring.
"I’m proud of the boys, and they showed a lot of heart," Bruich said. "The loss hurt us but we were able to beat a good team and everybody showed up. I thought that we really played strong defensively. We stopped their dribble and our offense had good spacing. It was a good overall team effort. Cash Schichtl came in and played tough, and Grant Smith did a good job. Matt Lowe got the start tonight, and he had a solid floor game. We know that we’ll have a great bulls-eye on our backs so we have to stay hungry."