by Samantha Lefebvre
A tied game with a minute left on the clock all came down to the final seconds between Spring Lake Park (12-10) and Irondale (7-14) Feb. 6.
With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, junior Alexis Luedtke stole the ball from the Knights and made a layup off the breakaway, giving the Panthers a two-point lead.
“We were talking to the girls in the timeout about them running the flex offense and for us to jump that first pass. We were hoping that it would work and luckily for us Lexi (Luedtke) did jump that and get it,” Spring Lake Park assistant coach Randy Eatherton said.
Twenty seconds after Luedtke’s steal, the Panthers drew a foul sending the Knights to the line and making it a one-point game.
With only five seconds remaining the Knights fouled senior captain Nicole Howard, who went two-for-two at the line, giving the Panthers a three-point lead. Irondale’s only chance for victory was to make a buzzer beater three-point shot, but the ball fell short and to the left resulting in a 46-43 win for the Panthers.
Both teams got off to a slow start and only had six points apiece to show for in the first seven minutes of play. A back and forth first half sent the Panthers into halftime with a small two-point lead, 23-21.
Another equal half didn’t let either team get more than a four-point lead in the second half of the game. With less than one minute left on the clock the game was tied 42-42, but one big steal and two clutch free throws in the final seconds gave the Panthers a sufficient three-point lead to run out the clock. The Knights missed their shot at forcing the game into overtime and the Panthers won 46-43.
“It was definitely a close game and it also wasn’t the prettiest game,” Eatherton said. “But just like I tell the girls, a win is a win. Whether it is the prettiest win or whatever, we will take a win whatever way we can get it right now.”
Leading the Panthers was junior Christina Wakeman with 12 points, nine of which occurred in the first half and mainly underneath the basket.
“She had a good game,” Eatherton said. “She did a really good job underneath the basket. We were trying to get the ball up to her a lot and they knew it too and sometimes we forced it but overall she did a great job for us underneath the basket.”
Junior Breanna Semanko also contributed double-digit points for the Panthers, putting up 11 points.
Stephanie Meyer for the Knights led the game with 17 points, sinking three shots from behind the arc in the first half.
“Defensively we played really well,” Eatherton said. “(Meyer) was really hot for them. So we tried to contain her. She had three threes in the first half alone and we did a much better job in the second half on her.”
The Panthers have two weeks and four games remaining in the regular season. Three of the games are against Chisago Lakes, Totino-Grace and Robbinsdale Cooper, all of which are ahead of Spring Lake Park in the conference.