Parker girls basketball team's title-clinching party hits delay in Verona
VERONA On a night when Verona staged a Valentine's Day fundraiser to support the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign with red warm-up shirts and a halftime half-court contest, they also handed Parker an overtime heartbreaker.
The eighth-ranked Vikings led 50-47 with 37.5 seconds remaining following Dani Fugate's three-point play, but could not close out the victory, which would have secured the outright Big Eight Conference title Thursday.
Instead, Marissa Mears answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 16 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
"She has ice in her veins and that kid has hit some big shots," Verona coach Angie Murphy said.
Parker turned the ball over on its final possession of overtime and then watched as the ninth-ranked Wildcats closed out the overtime period with a 6-0 run, handing the Vikings their first conference loss, 60-55.
"It was key when they were able to be real physical down on the blocks," said Parker coach Tom Klawitter, whose squad drops to 17-3 overall, 15-1 in the Big Eight. "We should have won it in regulation and at least got a shot off. That is probably the most disappointing thing about the whole thing."
Fugate and Ashley Hartwig battled foul trouble all night working against Verona's Lexy Richardson and Shannon Kant. Fugate fouled out in overtime, finishing with 22 points. Richardson finished with 24 for Verona, including sinking 3 of 4 free throws in the final nine seconds.
"I don't think they are used to people pushing back so much," said Richardson, who tallied 17 points in the second half and overtime. "In the beginning, the refs were not calling it, so if they aren't going to call it, we are just going to go even harder. I'm pretty sure they had the same mentality."
Parker regrouped to pull ahead, 55-54, in overtime after Morgan McCulloch's 3-pointer with 1:53 remaining. But, Kant answered with a lay-up and Mears added a free throw to give Verona (16-4, 14-2) the lead for good at 57-55 with 43.9 seconds left.
Forced to foul, Parker sent Jamie Hintz to the line with 15.8 left. The senior misfired, but despite being sandwiched between two Parker defenders, Kant corralled the rebound. Falling backwards, she passed off to Richardson to finish off the Vikings.
But it was Mears (12 points) who started the rally with the clutch 3-pointer to keep Verona alive for the conference title.
"We had opportunities, but just didn't finish," Klawitter said.