SERENA – The opening 32 minutes of play between the host Serena Lady Huskers and visiting Seneca Lady Irish weren’t enough time to produce a victor Tuesday night.
However, led by the play and six points in the extra session from sophomore guard Katie Baker, Serena outlasted Seneca for an exciting 41-38 overtime triumph.
The Lady Huskers (7-7) bolted to a 16-2 lead after the opening eight minutes, but the Lady Irish (12-6) slowly began to creep back into the game, trailing 21-10 at halftime and 28-18 after three quarters before outpointing the home team 15-5 in the fourth – including a 6-0 run in the final minute and a half to tie the score 33-all at the regulation horn.
“I thought we really attacked Seneca’s press the way we have been working on handling defensive pressure, and it led to some early layups,” Serena coach Jim Jobst said. “We also really ran our half-court offense well when we needed to. Tonight was two teams really trying to do the same types of things to slow the other one down. ... We knew it would be a track meet.
“We challenged the girls right before the start of overtime and told them the outcome was going to come down to who wants it more. ... They showed that they wanted it.”
After Seneca netted the opening points in overtime on an Abe Jashari drive, Baker converted on back-to-back drives before Elly Kuhn scored off a Baker assist to make it 39-35.
Seneca pulled to within one point after a layup from Brooklyn Giertz and free throw from Cassidy Draves – the latter with 48 seconds left. The teams traded miscues before Baker, who had a game-high 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and eight steals, converted both ends of a one-and-bonus with 15 seconds remaining.
Seneca had one last chance to tie the game at the final horn, but a 3-point shot fell short.
Jashari paced Seneca with 15 points and four steals, Madison Bromberek added 10 points and six rebounds, Giertz chipped in eight points, and Mara Bruno pulled down a game-best 16 rebounds.
Following Baker for Serena was Taylor Staton with eight points and seven boards, and Kallie Cantlin with six points.
Seneca opened the night’s scoring on an inside bucket from Bromberek, but Serena closed out the frame on a 16-0 run, with Baker scoring half of her team’s points. The Lady Huskers maintained around a 10-point lead until the fourth when Jashari’s seven points along with four from Bromberek helped the Lady Irish battle back to even.
“To me, it’s really simple: We’re too good a team to score 10 points in the first half total,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said. “This game was completely lost in the first quarter being down 16-2. ... We didn’t come out with any emotion. Serena was very disciplined and moved the ball well against our zone pressure. We didn’t get off to a good start and then panicked, but give them all the credit in the world for the way they handled our pressure.
“We can be happy that we battled back, and I knew we would, but this one should sting. I told them in the locker room, we were outplayed by a team that wanted it more. Even in overtime when we scored first, you have to then have that killer mentality, and we just didn’t have that tonight.”