In a game where pressure and drama mounted at a much faster rate than numbers on the scoreboard, St. Vincent's girls basketball team parlayed just four second-half field goals into the Class 2 District 4 first-place plaque.
The Indians nursed a four-point halftime lead with defense and 15 second-half points to defeat New Haven 37-30 in the girls basketball championship game.
While points might have been scarce, smiles were not as the Indians excitedly held their trophy high on the court after the presentation.
"I've waited for this moment for so long," said senior point guard Chelsie Boxdorfer, who missed last year's title game due to mononucleosis and more time this season with a knee injury. "I'm getting to finish the season now and I'm so pumped. We worked so hard for this. We work so well together."
The victory also avenged an overtime loss to New Haven in last year's title game.
"It was a huge disappointment," senior guard Kelci Besand said about the season-ending loss. "Coming into the game, we were ready to play them. We remembered what they did to us last year. We kept it inside of us this whole year."
Senior center Kali Wingerter, who finished tied for team-high scoring honors with 12 points along with junior guard Courtney Heberlie, was of the same mind.
"We just wanted to beat them so bad," Wingerter said. "And to do it was amazing."
Besand said she would have thought the worst if someone would have told her in advance about the 15-point output.
"I would of thought, 'Oh man, that's not going to be good,'" Besand said. "Fifteen points is not a lot, but we won the game with it. It was just enough."
St. Vincent coach Terry Wengert said her team averages around 53 points a game.
"I never would of believed it," Wengert said about winning with 37 points. "Our defense stepped up big. We knew it would be lower scoring tonight. I didn't worry about it. The only thing I worried about was who's on top."
St. Vincent never trailed in the game, but the winning margin also matched its biggest lead of the night. The slim lead throughout the game allowed the Indians to stick with their deliberate offense against the Shamrocks' man-to-man defense. Most of their baskets came from close range, often off a backdoor pass after lulling New Haven with numerous passes.
The deliberate attack resulted in St. Vincent hitting 15 of 29 shots.
"We talked about slowing it down, taking our time and being patient," Wengert said. "They played good defense, and then we tried not to rush it and throw it away. They showed a lot of composure at times."
The Indians led 22-18 at halftime and clung to a 24-23 lead when Heberlie connected for the Indians' lone 3-pointer of the game with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
St. Vincent did not score during the first half of the fourth quarter as New Haven closed the gap with baskets on two of its first four possessions. Kayla Oetterer, who had 13 points and was the only New Haven player to score more than six points, first put in an offensive rebound. Elise McDonald then cut the Indians' lead to 28-27 when she scored inside off a pass from Julie Scheer with 4:56 remaining.
St. Vincent, which had turnovers on its first four possessions of the fourth quarter, responded with a 6-0 run.
Besand ended the fourth-quarter drought when she gathered in an offensive rebound on the bounce and quickly launched a 10-foot shot from the left baseline that provided a three-point cushion, 30-27, with 3:47 left.
"I knew that they just scored, and I said, 'Man, this is getting close, too close for comfort,'" Besand said. "I just lost my man, I was open going up, and I said, 'If it goes in, it goes in.' And luckily it did."
"They got it two years ago and we got it last year in overtime," said New Haven coach Dave Luecke, who pitted his team against St. Vincent in the title game for the third straight year. "We knew it was going to be a battle. Give St. Vincent credit, they forced us to make some big turnovers. Give them credit, but we don't normally turn the ball over so many times, and we missed a lot of shots under the basket."
Luecke said his Shamrocks, which only played three games against Class 1 and Class 2 schools during the regular season, average around 45 points a game. New Haven connected on 11 of 36 shots and had more turnovers (17) than field goals (11).
St. Vincent scored the game's first six points, but New Haven, with the help of two 3-pointers, pulled even at 8-8.
A short jumper along the right baseline by Heberlie put St. Vincent ahead for good in the final minute of the first quarter, which ended with the Indians ahead 10-9.
"She came up big," Wengert said. "She wanted the ball. She went strong to the basket. We've been working on her, and she just did a great job."
The sectional round will be a test the Indians already have failed twice this season.
Meadow Heights defeated the Indians 67-31 in mid-December and 65-23 in the championship game of the Delta New Year's tournament in early January.
"They always say the third time is the charm," Wengert said.
NEW HAVEN (30) -- Elise McDonald 4, Kayla Oetterer 13, Julie Scheer 2, Rachel Steinhoff 6, Taylor Willimann 5. FG 11, FT 5-6, F 12. (3-pointers: Steinhoff 2, Willimann 1. Fouled out: none)
ST. VINCENT (37) -- Kelci Besand 2, Chelsie Boxdorfer 2, Storm French 2, Courtney Heberlie 12, Kayla Seabaugh 7, Kali Wingerter 12. FG 15, FT 6-10, F 6. (3-pointers: Heberlie 1. Fouled out: none)