Thursday's Rotary Girls Basketball Tournament championship game was everything hoops fans could hope for -- timely shooting, aggressive defensive, top players playing hard, and a final outcome that wasn't certain until the buzzer at the end.
Notre Dame beat Pavilion 44-43.
"It's been a while since we've had a nail-biter like that," said Tom McCulley, head coach of the Fighting Irish. "You've got two good teams that are well coached and with some players that can do special things and who are competitors, so at the end, you know you never feel comfortable as a coach with a two-point lead with 10 seconds left. It's never over in that situation."
Avelin Tomidy won the tournament's Ray Shirtz Service over Self Award, and the two free throws she made with eight seconds left may have swayed a few judge's votes. Those free throws gave Notre Dame a four-point lead. If she missed either shot, it may have been a different game. Karlee Zinkievich, who was already having a big night and a bigger second half, hit a three-point shot with four seconds left. The Gophers were out of position to foul to stop the clock on Notre Dame's inbound pass eliminating any hope, how small it might have been, of getting another possession.
"It makes it exciting for the fans and the players and gets my heart pumping a little bit," McCulley said.
Pavilion's head coach Ben Schwenebraten would like to have notched the win, of course, but it was an exciting game.
"We knew it would be tough playing against Notre Dame," he said. "Notre Dame is in our class this year, and they're really tough, so it's a good game. It came right down the end, and we had a chance it just didn't go our way a couple of shots. We missed a couple of shots, missed a couple of box outs, and they finished, so it was a good game."
Schwenebraten said he was proud of how his team overcame a 10-point half-time deficit.
"It's all you hoped for in a game, that you have a chance at the end," Schwenebraten said. "We wanted to battle back and be in the game, and the girls did go right back out in the third quarter and played hard and then we had a chance at the end."
A big reason Pavilion had that chance was the play of Karlee Zinkievich in the second half, who played fearless basketball.
"She's a workhorse," Schwenebraten said. "She drives the bus for us. Once she gets going it helps everybody else out and she really did in the second half. She played great. She was attacking on offense, driving to the basket, taking jump shots, and she made that shot at the end of the game."
The difference maker for Notre Dame on Thursday was Emma Sisson, who was named the tournament MVP.
"We needed her," Tom McCulley said. "Amelia had a big night the other night, but she's been sick, and it really hit her today. Emma had the opportunities, and she took full advantage of them. I mean, she made big shots, and she drove to the basket, so we started to adjust the game plan a little bit because we couldn't run everything that we needed to run because another one of our starters was out sick. We kind of had to go a little bit vanilla tonight and just run some basic stuff. Emma did a really good job of freelancing and getting to the basket and getting us some big layups at some big times."
Notre Dame is now 7-1 and Pavilion is 6-2.
Notre Dame scoring:
- Emma Sisson, 23 point
- Amelia McCulley, 10 points and four rebounds and four steals
- Avelin Tomidy, eight points, nine rebounds and nine steals
- Lauren Kingsley, 16 points
- Karlee Zinkievich, 15 points
- Kylie Conway, eight points
In the consolation game earlier in the evening, Pembroke beat Batavia 45-41.
- Karli Houseknecht: 13 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
- Elle Peterson: 11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals
- Olivia Breeden: 8 points, 1 assist, 4 rebounds, 3 steals
Photos by Howard Owens. For more, or to purchase prints, click here.
Emma Sisson was named tournament MVP. The all-tournment team was Anna Varland, Batavia, Karli Houseknecht, Pembroke, Amelia McCulley, Notre Dame, Lauren Kingslee, Pavilion, and Karlee Zinkievich, Pavilion. Avelin Tomidy received the Ray Shirtz Service Above Self Award.