Eagles guard Kaitlyn Shands hit a buzzer-beating, game-tying 3-pointer in regulation, then hit two free throws moments into overtime to lift East Prairie to a 51-48 victory over Kelly in girls basketball action Monday night.
Shands, a junior, took a feed from teammate Caitlyn Harwell on the left wing and swished the game-tying shot to force overtime. She then drew a foul on the first possession in overtime and calmly sank both free throws, providing the winning points.
The fact she played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls wasn't lost on Douglas.
"I said at the beginning of the year that [Shands] was going to be the key to our success," the coach said after his team improved to 4-2 on the season. "If she plays well and makes good decisions, we play well. When she doesn't, we don't play well."
"I put her back in with four fouls because I thought the game was getting out of hand," Douglas said.
Douglas also switched from a zone to man-to-man defense with a full-court press to open the final period.
"Switching from a zone to man-to-man helped," he said. "[Kelly] didn't get the ball up and down the floor quite as easily after that."
It didn't take long to pay dividends. After Kelly's Tessa Johnson -- who led all scorers with 25 points -- hit a 3-pointer to make it 40-29, East Prairie began to chip away. Shands converted a three-point play and added a steal and a short jumper to make it 40-34. The teams traded points until another short jumper by Shands made it 44-40.
The Hawks had a chance to win the game at the line but couldn't convert from the charity stripe. Sophomore Stephanie Worth hit 2 of 4, but after Rebekah Douglas hit two free throws with 18.4 seconds left, the Eagles trailed just 46-44. A backcourt foul sent Kelly sophomore Morgan LeDure to the line, but she also hit just 1 of 2.
That set the stage for Shands' heroics.
"Coach was saying if [LeDure] missed the free throw we were going [for the tie]," Shands said. "I set up and made sure my feet were behind the [3-point] line. When I got it I didn't hesitate or think. I just shot it, and it went in."
Missed free throws again cost the Hawks in overtime as they made just 1 of 6 from the line in the extra frame.
Meanwhile, Shands hit her pair, then fouled out with 3:15 left. Freshman Bethany Ferrell hit 1 of 2 with 28 seconds left, then Harwell did the same with 8 seconds left for the final cushion.
"I should have made my other free throws," Harwell said. "Any kind of cushion will help out."
Rebekah Douglas, who rebounded the missed three throw that led to Shands' game-tying hoop, was happy the Eagles rebounded from that rough stretch late in the third period.
"I was disappointed with myself," she said. "I felt I needed to pick up my game and start playing smarter, and I did."
Kelly coach Rod McQuerter lamented his team's sluggish fourth quarter after working so hard to get a lead. East Prairie outscored Kelly 19-10 over the final eight minutes of regulation and 4-1 in the overtime session.
"That's called freshmen and sophomores," he said, noting the 10 underclassmen dotting his roster. "That's what a young team will do. But they have a positive attitude, they play hard, they play as a team. We don't focus on one mistake."
EAST PRAIRIE (51) -- Rebekah Douglas 11, Caitlyn Harwell 10, Kaitlyn Shands 22, Bethany Ferrell 1, Ashley Bard 1, Lauren Magee 6. FG: 17. FT: 13-29. F: 20. (3-pointers: Shands 3. Fouled out: Magee, Shands.)
KELLY (48) -- Tessa Johnson 25, Stephanie Worth 3, Alexis Dock 2, Samantha Ratledge 2, Kristi Brucker 6, Katie Koonce 4, Logan Ivie 6. FG: 19. FT: 5-18. F: 27. (3-pointers: Johnson 5. Fouled out: Brucker.)