Cougars win in furious final seconds

HARRIS – Teslyn Tyner raced down the court, threw a quick pass to Vanessa Freberg who watched her shot bounce off the rim. Tyner grabbed the rebound and then saw her last attempt go awry as well, and amidst the chaos of the waning seconds, Brianna Emard found the ball in her hands under the basket, and she didn’t miss.

“I didn’t think it was going in because I was so far underneath the basket,” the elated senior center said, following Superior Central’s 61-60 Central U.P. Conference victory over Bark River-Harris, Thursday night.

“But I got it in there. I was real excited and I’m glad it went in because it was a big win for us.”

The victory clinched the Central U.P. Conference title for Superior Central, which won at Bark River-Harris for the first time since Jan. 31, 2008.

“I’m glad we won, because this was for the CUP,” said Emard. “I didn’t think we were going to get the rebound because we had to go over so many big girls, but the fourth try was a good one and we got it in and won by one. I’m really happy and out of breath. My heart is still pounding.”

The Broncos maintained a one point advantage for much of the fourth quarter and both teams made their share of mistakes down the stretch. It never turned into a free-throw contest however, much to head Broncos coach Joel Schultz’s dismay.

“You might say we traded turnovers and they didn’t score, but those couple that we had early when we went to hold the ball and they scored, we scored and it didn’t seem like anything – it means a ton,” he said. “What should have happened is we should have went to the free throw line and play a percentage game. We made a mistake, they did, we did – that’s not how you manage a clock.”

Schultz also expressed frustration over how the last possession went down for his team.

“We lost the game because our bigs don’t play big,” he summarized. “We don’t box out, and we were watching them shoot four shots to end the game. And as painful as that is, to lose the game like that, it’s an even bigger problem that we won’t ever compete at a high level if we don’t box out, and we’re not. We don’t have that mentality. We don’t pursue the ball, and it’s frustrating.”

The Cougars started the game out hot, forcing turnovers off their press and rolling out to a 19-11 advantage after the first.

Katie Schultz then helped get BR-H back in it, scoring five consecutive points to start the second quarter off. The Cougars went cold and it was a tie game at 27-27 after the first half.

However, though the Broncos rallied, the missed opportunities mounted as multiple shots missed the mark, including a handful of open layups.

“I thought we left maybe even close to 20 points on the floor in the first half with missed opportunities,” said Schultz. “Sometimes we didn’t get the shot up or we missed one-on-none.

“But kids don’t miss shots on purpose, so there was good effort, and it’s not necessarily controllable.”

Brooke Pasanen paced the Cougars in the third quarter, scoring eight of her 14 points on hard driving layups. Though the Broncos grabbed their first lead at 35-33 on two Caitlyn Frazer free throws, SC stormed back with a 10-3 run and led 47-40 going into the fourth.

Some unforced turnovers in the corner on the Cougars’ part, helped Bark River to get back in it.

“We threw the ball away,” said SC head coach Greg Trowbridge, who’s team had 20 turnovers. “We’re seniors. These girls have been on varsity for 3-4 years. There’s no excuse, we should never be getting rattled like that, not if we plan on doing anything at tournament time.

“The unforced turnovers, passing the ball out in crucial times, trying to dribble in-between two good ball players. If we didn’t get the foul the first time, don’t expect it the third or the fourth. You have to adjust.”

Hannah Starnes sunk a big three-pointer from the top of the key to give BR-H a 54-53 lead, and Maddison Lindquist hit a putback after a missed free throw, before hitting a triple on the right side of the basket near the baseline. Starnes then had four points on a bucket and two free throws. But the Cougars kept pace as Freberg and Tyner kept their team afloat, setting up the big finish. Frazer scored on the Broncos’ last possession with under 20 seconds remaining before the chain of events that led to Emard’s game winner.

Tyner led the Cougars with 18 points and six steals. Pasanen scored 14 and Vanessa Freberg scored 13 with 10 rebounds.

Starnes and Lindquist paced the Broncos with 13 points apiece. Schultz and Jordyn Hardy each scored 12 points and Frazer added 10.

“I had the ball in the hands of players who should be shooting it, and Brianna did her job,” said Trowbridge. “That was what we need from her inside and she got it and put it in. That was the biggest bucket of the ballgame by far. I was out of timeouts, we had to just go for it and hope for the best.

“I was worried. We didn’t play well last night (Wednesday’s 49-31 loss to Menominee) and without correcting our mistakes, we made the same mistakes tonight. It’s still hard to believe we pulled it off.”

Bark River-Harris (11-6, 6-2 CUP), which won the junior varsity game 82-11 hosts Munising, Monday while Superior Central (13-2, 10-0 CUP) hosts Big Bay de Noc, also on Monday.