BY TRAVIS DAVID
LAPLATA — Olivia Wood and Delaney Straus were not ready for the Marion County season to be over on Wednesday night.
Wood delivered a game-tying three-pointer in the final 30 seconds of regulation which completed a 14-point comeback and sent the Class 1 District 11 semifinal game into overtime.
In the extra four-minute period, Straus split a pair of free throws with three seconds on the clock for a 58-57 win over the No. 2 seed. The win moves the Lady Mustangs into Friday night’s district championship game over top-seeded North Shelby.
“We spent the whole game down 10-12 points but the girls just refused to quit tonight,” Lady Mustangs’ coach Reed Plunkett said of the comeback. “The girls just kept the same mindset the entire game and stayed locked in on what they needed to do. They gave themselves an opportunity to make a run late and had a lot of fun.”
LaPlata, who defeated the Mustangs by three points in the regular season, led 16-7 after the first eight minutes of play and 29-23 at the half.
After allowing an average of 16 points in the first three quarters, the Marion County defense stepped up in the fourth. The Mustangs cashed turnovers into points to lead to a 19-5 advantage in the final eight minutes of regulation.
Plunkett mentioned his two leading scorers finally felt more at home within the offense in the fourth.
“Really, Delaney and Olivia started to get more comfortable with the ball in their hands and started to get inside their (LaPlata) zone,” the Marion County coach said. “That also opened up some of our outside shooters as well.”
But it was not just Wood and Straus who did the heavy lifting down the stretch. Tristen Holt was held scoreless for the first three quarters but had a bucket late in the fourth to help get the Mustangs in position to tie the game. Holt then tied the game in overtime with a rebound basket ahead of Straus’ game-winning free throw.
Halle Keilholz battled foul trouble most of the game but sank three freebies in the fourth quarter. She also hit a three-pointer in each of the first three quarters to finish with 12 points in the win.
Madison Stewart also hit a three-pointer and added seven points.
“Everyone stepped up and helped in the comeback,” Plunkett stated. “But we still have to be able to have five scoring threats out there on the floor at the same time instead of one or two here and there.”
After a 30-point outburst in Monday night’s district-opening win, Straus tallied a game-high 20 points on Wednesday. Wood finished with 15 points.
Up next for the No. 3 seeded Lady Mustangs is top-seeded North Shelby — ranked No. 6 in the last Class 1 state rankings.
“They beat us by 20 in the regular season so we know what we are up against,” Plunkett said of the Raiders. “They are a really good team and have been ranked all season. They are our rivals, so it should be a fun game. We are just excited to have this opportunity for another game. We will need to take care of the ball and make lots of shots.”