CENTERBURG — At the midway point in the season, the race for the Mid-Buckeye Conference title just got interesting.
Trailing by 10 at halftime, the Utica Redskins kept themselves within striking distance on Saturday. Then, with three seconds left, they took their first lead over the MBC-leading Centerburg Trojans.
The Redskins hit their shots in the clutch, while the Trojans could not, resulting in a 55-54 Utica upset that put both teams in a tie for the girls basketball conference lead.
It was junior Taylor Dush who scored the points that put Utica in the lead. The Redskins (7-3, 6-1 MBC), down by one, held the ball for the final shot. When Dush drove the lane — something she and her teammates had done consistently throughout the game — she was fouled with three seconds remaining. The bench and the visiting crowd celebrated when she hit both free throws.
It was the first lead Utica had held in the game. The team had tied the game in the third, but Centerburg responded quickly. Sophomore Tory Minton hit a jumper with 3:45 remaining in the third, capping a 14-4 run. Centerburg (9-2, 6-1 MBC) responded seconds later when senior Meghan Altizer (four points) hit a layup on a fast break. When Kendall Compton (four points) hit a jumper to begin the fourth, Centerburg had once again built an eight-point lead.
But Utica stormed back again. Switching to a half-court press, the Redskins forced Centerburg into seven fourth-period turnovers. On the other side, buckets by Dush and Kelly Overton, followed by a 3-pointer by Minton, brought the Redskins to a 52-51 deficit with 1:25 to play.
“Our kids took some chances that we don’t normally take,” said Utica head coach Michelle Snow. “And, against a team like Centerburg, you have to be willing to take some chances.”
“We got outplayed in the fourth quarter,” said Centerburg head coach Todd Nauman. “We just didn’t do what we needed to do. ... We had all those turnovers because we weren’t coming to the ball, instead of working on those things that we do on a daily basis.”