ADA – If Tuesday night’s Division III regional semifinal at Ohio Northern was part of a “Survivor” series, Columbus Grove tried over and over to get John Langenderfer’s Evergreen Vikings voted off the island.
The Vikings refused to leave, and after losing an 11 point third quarter lead, Evergreen used an athletic three-point play from senior forward Eden Eisel to forge back ahead with 1:24 to go and “survived” some misfires at the foul line in the last 10 seconds to win, 51-50, and advance to the regional final in the girls basketball tournament.
“We did it with class, and we did it with character,” exclaimed Viking coach John Langenderfer. “Sometimes when things aren’t going your way, you have to find a way to make plays at the end and we did.”
Back to back three-balls by Jade Clement and Macy McCluer gave Grove an early three-point lead, then the ultra-quick Clement scored on a steal to hold that lead with three minutes left in the first.
That’s when the Vikings began their present day version of Doolittle’s Raid.
Eisel began a barrage of three-point goals with an NBA range triple to tie the game, and Haili Mossing gave Evergreen their first lead at 11-9 at the 1:57 mark with a baseline jumper.
Eisel bumped the lead to 14-11 at the quarter with 3 of 4 from the foul line before Mossing exploded in the second.
The Viking lefty scored on a baseline drive, a three-ball from the corner and an offensive rebound to put Evergreen up 21-13.
Clement scored the next five Grove points to chop the lead to three, but Hannah Herr tripled from the corner and Mossing went into radar mode with a 23-footer from the wing to triple the Vikings’ advantage at 27-18 with 4:33 to go in the half.
Just for good measure, Mossing canned one more from long range, giving her 13 points in the quarter and 20 in the first half to keep Grove at bay, 31-24, at intermission.
“Our game plan was to see if we could slip backside down the baseline and penetrate and kick and in the first half we did a good job,” explained Langenderfer.
“We got Haili a lot of good shots. I never dreamed she would get that many good looks. She was 25 feet from the basket in some cases, but she has long range.”
“I was feeling it after the first basket,” said Mossing. “I just kept shooting it and they kept going in.”
Evergreen shot 60 percent from behind the arc for the first half and added to that total 19 seconds into the third when Eisel connected from long distance to give the Vikes a 10 point lead.
Grove countered with a high-low layup from big 6’1” Lynea Diller, then yet another triple from Clement to slice the Vikings lead in half, but Herr dropped a pair of three-point bombs from the right corner and Mossing scored on a jumper around a Diller hoop to give Evergreen their biggest lead at 42-31 with 3:26 left.
But, without injured flash of a point guard Alyssa Noe, the Vikes began to tire and Grove went on a 14-2 run that spanned the next eight minutes to take a one point lead.
Clement and McCluer hit from long distance before the end of the third and Clement’s fifth triple of the night tied the game at 44 with 5:18 left.
Kyrah Yinger gave Grove their first lead since the opening quarter, splitting a pair of free throws with 3:16 to go, but Rachael Noe did the same for Evergreen 27 seconds later to knot the score again.
McCluer went to the line for Grove with 1:55 on the clock, made the first and missed the second for a one point Bulldog lead.
Grove collected the rebound off the missed free throws but Evergreen forced a turnover with 1:33 left to give them life.
Noe slashed up court against the Grove press and threw a rainbow that Eisel picked in front of a Bulldog defender and beat Brooke Hoffman to the rim for a layup that turned into a three-point play on Hoffman’s foul, vaulting Evergreen back on top for good, 48-46.
“I was a little scared to drive during the game because of the early charge I picked up,” said Eisel. “But I knew she wouldn’t get there this time.”
After Yinger missed from the line, Noe stepped up and buried a pair for the Vikings from the stripe to extend the lead to 50-46 with 45 ticks left.
Diller’s jumper from just inside the foul line got the Bulldogs within 50-48 before Herr got a make after a miss from the stripe to get the lead back to three.
Diller again scored on a jumper with 18.9 to go before the last edgy seconds took place.
Grove sent Eisel to the stripe with 10 seconds to go but the usually reliable foul shooter misfired.
However, the Bulldogs failed to box out Eisel and the Viking forward scooped up the loose rebound and got the ball to Mossing, burning five valuable seconds off the clock.
But Mossing also didn’t connect from the line, however, Noe got her hand on the Bulldogs attempt to get the ball up the floor, leaving Grove only with McCluer’s heave that was off the mark.
“We usually make those at the end of games when we need them,” said Langenderfer of the missed free throws. “If we miss we’ve been up 20 or something like that but I think that’s the first time that has happened with a one point lead.”
For the game Evergreen shot 40 percent from the floor, including a white hot 53 percent behind the arc. The Evergreen defense hurried Grove into a 32 percent performance from the field, thanks in part to Kaela Fauble countering Diller by blocking three of the Bulldog’s second leader scorer’s shots during the contest.
The Bulldogs shot 28 percent from the three-point line.
Mossing ended up with 22 for the game along with a game high 12 rebounds. Eisel had 13 and Herr 10.
Clement scored 21, including hitting the 1,000 point mark for her career, for the Bulldogs who finish the season at 23-3.
Evergreen (24-2) now travels to Lexington on Saturday for the regional final contest against the winner of the Seneca East and Columbus Africentric game. Tip-off for the regional final is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Joe Blystone can be reached at [email protected]