Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Matt DiFilippo email@example.com
AUGUSTA — For once in a magical, unforgettable two-year run, the Hall-Dale girls' basketball team didn't make the biggest play of the game.
Max McHugh made two free throws with 11.4 seconds left, and Central High earned its first Class C state championship with a 40-39 victory over the defending champion Bulldogs on Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Red Devils trailed 25-12 with 5:24 to play in the third quarter but outscored Hall-Dale 28-14 from that point.
Central grabbed its first lead since the first quarter when 6-foot freshman Brianna Skolfield followed up McHugh's miss to make it 38-37 with 38 seconds left in the game.
Twelve seconds later, Hall-Dale's Allison Crockett (six points, nine rebounds) finished off a beautiful drive-and-dish by Wendy Goldman, and her layup put Hall-Dale back in front.
Central called a timeout with 18.8 seconds to go. When play resumed, McHugh drove to the basket from the left side and drew the fifth foul on Hall-Dale star Carylanne Wolfington. McHugh swished both free throws, putting Central ahead 40-39 with 11.4 seconds left.
"The plan that we had was for me to drive to the basket, because we knew that (Skolfield) was doubled," McHugh said. "I either wanted a foul or the shot to go in.
"I got the foul, and on that line, I must say I was the most nervous I've ever been in my entire life. The pressure was unbelievable, but thank God the adrenaline pulled me through on that one."
The Bulldogs had to go the length of the court after the timeout, and the ball ended up in the hands of Goldman on the right wing. She had to force a 17-footer at the buzzer, and the shot was off line.
"I thought about calling time out after we crossed the half-court line to draw up a play," Hall-Dale Coach Brandon Terrill said. "But my philosophy has always been, 'Let 'em play, and let 'em create something.' We didn't get as good a look as we probably would have liked."
Hall-Dale led 15-12 at halftime after a second quarter in which the teams combined to score four points, shoot 2 for 23 from the field and commit 15 turnovers.
But all that was quickly forgotten at the start of the third quarter. Goldman and Kristina Buck each scored five points, and Hall-Dale led 25-12. Goldman, who also hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, finished with 17 points and tied the Class C state final record with four 3-pointers.
Central Coach Diane Rollins called a timeout at that point, and the Red Devils immediately changed their offensive game plan. With Skolfield (17 points, eight rebounds) and 5-foot-11 Sam Brownell, Central usually likes to be patient and go inside. But the Devils spent the early part of the third quarter settling for quick 3-pointers that skittered off the mark.
"I said to attack the basket and look for the big girls as we were attacking, instead of looking for something that we didn't want," Rollins said. "We've played that way all year. We'd do things that weren't quite right, and then they'd come out of it, like they did tonight."
Central did not take a 3-pointer the rest of the way, and rarely took an outside shot. Skolfield scored 11 of her 17 points in the second half and also stayed on the floor until the end, despite picking up her fourth foul with 4:39 remaining.
While that was going on, Central was also doing an amazing defensive job on Wolfington, who came in averaging 21.5 points per game. Wolfington was still very much a factor with her defense, floor sense and 10 rebounds, but finished with just six points.
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