Tecumseh girls hold off Lebanon in up-tempo upset

2:09 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 Sports
Tecumseh junior Presley Griffitts (24) scored 23 points as No. 7 Tecumseh beat No. 3 Lebanon 64-58 in the D-I sectional on Tuesday at Troy. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

The Tecumseh Arrows don’t take the court again until Monday. They’ll gladly take that break to rest up from Tuesday’s Division I sectional tournament victory, a 64-58 upset over Lebanon that resembled a track meet in high tops.

Fittingly, the fourth quarter was a sprint to the finish. Seventh-seeded Tecumseh and No. 3 Lebanon combined for 37 points, nearly matching the offensive output from the first half (50 points). The final quarter had two lead changes, three ties — the last coming at 58-58 with 1:25 remaining — and too many big plays to mention at Troy High School.

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Lebanon led 53-48 with 3:45 left for its largest lead. And just when it appeared the momentum was swinging the Warriors’ way, Tecumseh junior Corinne Thomas dropped in a 3-pointer to halt Lebanon’s rally.

A minute later Arrows’ junior Presley Griffitts calmly sank another 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game 54-54 with 2:43 left.

“That was huge,” Tecumseh coach Danielle Thomas said of the outside shots. “Then we made a couple defensive plays … it was kind of a blur at the end. It was just turn up the defense and see what we can get.”

What Tecumseh (19-5) got was a chance to play for a Division I sectional championship. Tecumseh plays No. 6 Fairmont (16-8) at 6 p.m. Monday at Troy. The winner advances to the district championship. Fairmont beat No. 9 Vandalia Butler 45-31 in Monday’s second game.

Against Lebanon (18-5), Tecumseh again unleashed its full-court pressure for nearly four quarters. The Arrows led 19-9 late in the first quarter and held on to a 27-23 lead at halftime. The Arrows – who led by as many as eight in the third quarter – saw that lead disappear early in the fourth.

Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth until the final score.

Tecumseh scored the decisive final six points on a Griffitts basket with 1:13 to play, then added a pair of Thomas free throws with 58 seconds left. After two key defensive plays from junior Macy Berner, Griffitts capped the scoring with two free throws with 24 seconds left.

Berner blocked a shot on the baseline with 45 seconds left. After Thomas missed the first bonus free throw with 30 seconds left, Berner — leaping out of bounds to grab the loose ball — bounced it off a Warrior to help Tecumseh retain possession. Berner also clutched the game-ending rebound after Lebanon missed a trio of 3-point attempts in the final 20 seconds.

“It was really good to see everyone contributing and playing as a team,” said Corinne Thomas, who finished with a game-high 29 points. “It couldn’t take two people. It had to take all five no matter who was on the floor.”

Still, Thomas and Griffitts did most of the damage. The duo combined for 52 of the Arrows’ 64 points. Thomas shot 8-of-11 from the field and hit eight of her nine free throws. Griffitts went 9-12 from the field and made all four free throws. As a team Tecumseh shot 21-of-41 (58.5 percent).

“Thomas didn’t beat us too much until we just lost her,” Lebanon coach Rob Hodges said. “We lost her on the defensive end. She makes shots. That’s what she does. A couple times in transition we were late getting to her and she made shots.”

Eva White led Lebanon with 16 points. Alexis Straw added 14 and Kendall Folley 12 as the Warriors shot 21-of-62 (33.9 percent).

“I’ll give Tecumseh credit. They were making 15-footers, layups, three-pointers. They made the shots to win,” Hodges said. “You have to make shots to beat good teams. They did that and we didn’t make enough.”

Berner and freshman Terah Harness also added key baskets in the fourth quarter for Tecumseh.

“Everybody stepped up,” coach Thomas said. “They didn’t care who got the glory. They just wanted to win.”

Those steps might be a little slower today, though. The high-intensity game left the players, coaches and more than a few fans drained emotionally.

“I am dead,” Corinne Thomas said, managing a tired smile. “Playing on a bigger floor. It’s a bigger game. Your adrenaline is running. You’re pressing and they’re pressing. It takes everything.”

Once it survived that first quarter, Lebanon was able to break Tecumseh’s press. The Warriors forced the Arrows into 21 turnovers while committing 15. The Warriors outrebounded the Arrows 27-22, including 16-6 in the first half.

“We know we have to come out that way,” Griffitts said the Arrows’ up-tempo style. “We started with our our intensity high and finished with it high. … It’s rewarding (winning a game like this). You know how much time you put into it and it shows.”