At one point in the fourth quarter, Greenon High School girls basketball coach Lonnie Robinson looked at senior Reagan Ware and said: “It’s your time.”
The 5-foot-7 guard responded with one of the biggest performances in program history.
Ware scored 13 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Knights mounted a last-minute comeback to beat Catholic Central 62-52 in OT in front of a packed house on Saturday night at Jason Collier Gymnasium.
“It feels really good,” Ware said. “The seniors have been working on this forever now. This has been one of our goals for a while now and it’s great that we finally got it.”
Trailing by four with about 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Ware hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one point, a key bucket in sending the game to overtime. The senior scored the first five points of OT to help the Knights seal the win.
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With the winner-take-all victory, Greenon (17-5, 13-3) won the outright Ohio Heritage Conference South Division championship, its first league title since 2014.
“This group is just so special,” Robinson said. “When these seniors, when they’re done, they’ll leave a huge hole. What they’ve meant to our program, all seven of them, has been huge.”
Knights senior Delany Benedict scored 17 points and freshman Claire Henry had 12, hitting eight of nine free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Junior Abbigail Peterson scored 16 points, sophomore Serenity Castle had 14 and sophomore Mallory Mullen added 13 for the Irish (15-7, 12-4).
“We were thankful to be in this situation,” said Irish coach Brandon Peterson. “Our girls have worked all season for this. Hats off to that Greenon team. They’re an amazing program. We told our players all day that big time players make big time plays. One of the things you can’t control is when a shot goes in. Reagan just hit one of the most amazing shots I’ve seen. I’m proud of my team, but I’m just as proud of Greenon because they deserved this.”
Greenon led 30-27 at the half and extended its lead to 34-29 midway through the third quarter. The Irish stormed back with an 8-1 run, taking a 37-35 lead on a layup by Mullen.
Early in the fourth quarter, an old-fashioned three-point play by Claire Henry gave the Knights a 40-37 lead.
The Irish tied the game at 43 on a bucket by Abbigail Peterson with 2:11 remaining and grabbed a four-point lead on two free throws by Mullen with 38 seconds left.
11 seconds later, Ware buried a deep three to bring the Knights within one point at 47-46.
“I knew we were right in this game,” Ware said. “No matter how much time, we were right in it and we stuck with it. … I was feeling it right when it went in. I just kept shooting.”
Robinson called it one of the biggest shots he’s ever seen in his coaching career.
“When you’re down four and she just does that,” Robinson said. “She practices those shots. She’s got free reign and we tell her, ‘Go shoot the basketball.’ She just did a great job.”
Central turned the ball over on its next possession and fouled Henry with 17.7 seconds remaining. The freshman hit both free throws to give Greenon a 48-47 lead.
“She’s a basketball kid that understands basketball and wants the ball in her hands,” Robinson said. “She never took it as a slight when I would tell Reagan to go get the ball. She was always ready and she stepped up. She wants to be in those situations.”
On Central’s next possession, Mullen was fouled with 5.8 seconds remaining. She hit the first free throw to tie the game at 48. The second free throw rolled around the rim, down into the cylinder and squirted out, sending the game to overtime.
In the final four minutes, neither team scored until Ware hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining and two more free throws thirty seconds later to give Greenon a 55-48 lead it would never relinquish.
The Irish pulled to within three points twice down the stretch, but the Knights went 9 for 10 from the free throw line in the final minute to seal the championship.
“I knew right then I had to get the ball for foul shots,” Ware said. “I have to give my teammates all the credit for getting me the ball. It was a memorable night. We’ll enjoy this forever.”
The Knights earned the seventh seed in the D-III district at Covington and will play OHC South rival Greeneview for the third time this season at noon Saturday at Covington High School.
The Irish will look to regroup as they head into the postseason. Central earned the fifth seed in the Division IV Brookville district. They’ll play seventh-seeded Covington at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Brookville High School.
“It’s hard for them to hear this after a tough loss, but I want to remind them how young they are,” Brandon Peterson said. “We’ve got so much time left. This is how your character is defined and how you handle adversity. We’ve got to bounce back from this and just keep going.”
The Irish coach was also thankful for the atmosphere inside Jason Collier Gymnasium.
“We saw the whole city of Springfield come out and support us,” Brandon Peterson said. “That was the biggest thing. We had people from all over Springfield. They came out to see a good game.”
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