The Class 2A District IV girls title game was theirs to win. And if it wasn’t going to happen on the last shot of regulation, it was going to happen in overtime.
In what was a tightly contested game throughout, the top-ranked Hawks came up clutch from outside and had two key steals in overtime to capture a thrilling, 78-77 victory over Elma on Friday night at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion.
The Hawks (22-1) earned the district’s No. 1 seed, and Elma (19-4) is the No. 2 seed. Both teams will find out their opening-round state tournament opponents Sunday.
“When it’s on the line, they have the desire to win,” River Ridge coach Tom Kelly said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
River Ridge sophomore Samira McDonald had a chance to win it in regulation as she penetrated to the basket with 4 seconds remaining with the game tied at 71. After receiving the inbounds pass, she drove the lane and put up a shot that sat on the rim for nearly a full second before rolling off to force overtime.
Kelsey Russell, who had been quiet offensively for much of the second half, sparked the Hawks with a 3-pointer to start overtime. It was her fifth 3-pointer of the game and her first since the second quarter. She finished with 18 points.
McDonald led the Hawks with 26 points, and Jennifer Cole scored 16.
“I had the confidence I could make it,” Russell said. “I knew it was a risk, but if I made it, it was great. And I knew we weren’t going to lose … we would come back either way.”
The comeback started for River Ridge in the second half.
The Hawks haven’t been accustomed to be on the down side of a halftime score, but there they were, trailing 38-32 at the break.
“(At halftime) coach told us told us to play like we did in the beginning of the year,” McDonald said.
The Hawks outscored Elma 20-13 in the third quarter to take a 52-51 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cole gave River Ridge its first lead since 10-8 with a putback. Her 3-point play with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter put the Hawks up by six at 67-61.
But back came Elma.
Carly Meister, who had 21 points, and Katie Colard scored within a 12-second span to tie the game, 71-71.
Colard’s basket came with 13.3 seconds left, and River Ridge took a timeout with 4 seconds remaining.
In the overtime, Jasmine McDonald put the Hawks up by five, 78-73, hitting two free throws after making a steal and being fouled with 51.2 seconds left. She scored all 10 of her points in the second half and overtime.
Senior Brandi Thomas, who led all scorers with 28 points, scored Elma’s final four points in 46 seconds. She tried to draw a foul on a potential three-point play in the team’s final possession. She made the basket with 4 seconds left, but no foul was called. River Ridge players dribbled out the clock, then celebrated at half-court.
The first half alone featured six ties and seven lead changes. The teams traded baskets in their first five possessions of the second quarter.
In the first half, Russell’s 3-pointer cut Elma’s lead to one, 29-28, but the Eagles scored their final six points of the half in a 1-minute, 38-second span to increase its lead to 38-32.
River Ridge swept the regular-season series from the Eagles, winning 68-63 and 75-68.
Megan Wochnick: 360-754-5473