BUCYRUS — They were outshot, outrebounded and outscored 13-5 in the fourth quarter, but the Whippets found a way.
Emma Randall scored 19 points as third-seeded Shelby dodged a bullet with a 52-48 overtime win over No. 9 Lexington in the opening game of Saturday’s Division II sectional final doubleheader at Alex Kish Memorial Gymnasium.
The Whippets (22-2) advanced to next week’s district tournament and will play No. 2 Willard at 8 p.m. Thursday at Galion. The Crimson Flashes, who handed Shelby one of its two regular season losses, dispatched Madison 69-49 in Saturday’s late game.
Shelby handled Lexington 49-27 in late November but it was apparent early that Saturday’s showdown between the Richland County rivals would be different. Lady Lex led 13-8 after the first quarter and 26-22 at the half.
“We came out flat. We were standing and we weren’t moving,” Shelby coach Natalie Lantz said. “We talked about adjusting and doing the things we’re good at. When we started attacking, we gave ourselves some opportunities.”
Those opportunities came in the third quarter. The Whippets outscored Lady Lex 15-3 in the period to take a 37-29 lead to the fourth.
That’s when Lexington (6-17) made things interesting. Lady Lex scored the first six points of the period to cut the Shelby lead to 37-35 before Randall stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer for a 40-35 lead 4:09 remaining. Lex responded with a 5-0 run and pulled even at 40-40 on Gabby Stover’s runner with 1:19 remaining.
Bailey Walter gave the Whippets a 42-40 lead with a layup with 53 seconds to go but Stover knotted it a 42-42 with jumper from the wing with 36 second remaining. Shelby played for the final shot, but Randall’s short jumper rolled off the rim as time expired.
“We felt confident going to overtime even though we didn’t play very well most of the day,” said Randall, who added six rebounds and three steals. “I knew we were going to pull through because when we our in those situations we always find a way to pull out of them.”
The Whippets scored the first time points of the four-minute extra session, capped by steal and sensational layup by freshman point guard Sophia Niese with 2:08 remaining. Niese was fouled on the play, but misfired on the free throw. Still, Shelby led 47-42.
“I was just playing basketball,” Niese said of the daring drive to the hoop. “I always trust my teammates are going to find a way to get it done.”
A layup by Lexington’s Avery Coleman with 1:29 to play in OT cut Shelby’s lead to 47-44, but Randall calmly knocked down her third and final 3-pointer of the afternoon on Shelby’s next trip down the floor for a 50-44 lead with 1:08 to go. Another Stover jumper made it 50-46 with 53 seconds to go, but Cierra Gurney’s 11th offensive rebound of the game on Shelby’s next possession led to an easy putback and The Whippets led 52-46 with 33 seconds remaining.
“We survived,” Lantz said. “They could have given up, but they’ve got it in them to grit it out.”
Stover led Lady Lex with a game-high 22 points. Coleman had 11 points and 16 rebounds, while Lizzie Hamler came off the bench to score seven points and grab eight boards.
“The girls weathered the storm (in the third quarter) and didn’t let it get out of control,” Lex coach Heidi Roush said. “Then in the fourth quarter to play as hard as they did to get it to overtime was an incredible effort.
“We just said we had nothing to lose (in overtime). We wanted to give them everything we could handle.”
Niese backed Randall with 12 points. Walter had nine points, five boards and four steals and Gurney had five points to go with a game-high 17 rebounds.