SHELBY — When things were dangerously close to falling apart Saturday afternoon, Shelby’s Emma Randall was the glue that held them together.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Randall scored 19 points in a 52-48 overtime win over Lexington in the Division II sectional finals at Bucyrus’ Alex Kish Memorial Gymnasium.
The Whippets (22-2) desperately needed the junior’s steady hand and steely nerves on a day when almost everything was going wrong. Shelby trailed 13-8 after the first quarter and 26-22 at the half, but appeared to take control in the third quarter by outscoring Lady Lex 15-3 for a 37-29 advantage.
That’s when Shelby’s spectacular season nearly came off the rails. Lexington outscored the Whippets 13-5 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
It may have never come to that were it not for Randall. She hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers, one in the fourth quarter and one in overtime.
“She was a calming influence. She stayed very composed,” Shelby coach Natalie Lantz said. “Some of our girls were frustrated, but Randall did an excellent job of stepping up.”
As Shelby’s lead slipped away in the fourth, Randall momentarily stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer with 4:09 remaining in regulation to give the Whippets a 40-35 lead. Then, with Shelby clinging to a 47-44 with just over a minute remaining in the four-minute overtime session, Randall struck again from beyond the arc to give the Whippets some breathing room at 50-44.
“We played together as a team,” Randall said. “When a couple of us got frustrated, the rest of the team was there to pick us up.
“I knew we were going to pull through because when we are in those situations we always find a way to pull out of them.”
Shelby shot a woeful 29 percent from the field (16-for-55) and 64 percent from the free throw line (16-for-25). The Whippets were outrebounded 50-38.
“It was frustrating but you’ve just got to keep reminding everybody that it’s the next play that matters most,” Randall said. “You’ve got to keep playing for each other.”
Freshman point guard Sophia Niese’s confidence in Randall and the rest of her teammates never wavered. Niese scored 12 points in the win.
“I always trust that these girls are going to finish,” Niese said. “I know what Emma and all the other girls are capable of and I know we’re going to get it done.”
A 6-foot shooting guard, Randall also had a big game in the opening round of the sectional tournament. She scored a game-high 23 points in a 72-38 win over Vermilion.
In two sectional games Randall averaged 21 points a game after averaging 11.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals a night during the regular season. She was a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference first team selection, helping lead the Whippets to an outright MOAC crown.
Shelby will play Willard in the district semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday at Galion. The Crimson Flashes handed the Whippets one of their two regular season losses, winning 57-50 in late January.
“We didn’t play our best (against Lexington) but we survived,” Randall said. “That is what it’s all about now.”