MINONK — After downing the Olympia High School girls basketball team, 51-48, on Thursday, Fieldcrest celebrated as if it had never won a regional before, which it hadn’t.
Hannah Baker called her three-point play after a layup with 11.5 seconds left, that put the Knights ahead to stay at 49-48 in the Class 2A Fieldcrest Regional championship game, the biggest moment of her life.
“It’s pretty incredible,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to get the foul, but when I did, I just went crazy. When I got on the line, I thought, ‘all right, I know the pressure is on.’ So I just took my time and handled it and got it.”
The victory sends the No. 2-seeded Knights (20-11) into Monday’s 7:30 p.m. Beardstown Sectional semifinal to face Midwest Central (25-4).
“It feels amazing,” said Addie Goodrich, who led Fieldcrest with 17 points. “We’ve been working for this for so long.”
Knight coach Mitch Neally called the title something his school has waited 26 years for.
“When I took over four years ago, we made it a goal to put a banner in the rafters,” he said. “We worked every day toward that goal. We made it to the championship game three of the last four years and it sure feels good to come out on top tonight on our home court.”
Despite 18 points from Colby Burt, No. 3 seed Olympia, which was trying for its eighth regional title and first since 2002-03, ended at 18-13, quite a turnaround from last year’s 9-19 campaign.
The Spartans gave no hint they had been forced into overtime against El Paso-Gridley on Wednesday as they hustled to a 15-13 lead early in the second quarter. Fieldcrest answered with a 15-0 run that included 11-of-14 free throw shooting and nine Olympia turnovers.
Trailing 30-17 at halftime, Olympia opened the third period with seven straight points and hung around until Burt’s 3-pointer with 5:30 left pulled it within 40-38.
“We just had to play our game and take it right to them,” said Spartan coach Courtney Hoffman. “I think the kids had confidence at halftime. We were still in the ballgame and didn’t play very well.
“We wanted to pressure and got (seven second-half) turnovers. We took the lead and then we kind of lost it in the end. They always give me 100 percent and that’s all I’ve ever asked of them.”
After two free throws by Goodrich made it 42-38, Burt’s layup sparked a 6-0 run to put Olympia on top, 44-42, with 3:07 left. Fieldcrest remained in a hole until Baker’s heroics, which ended her 10-point night.
“Every girl that went on the floor tonight gave us something that you might not see in the stat book,” Neally said. “They are so unselfish, they don’t care who gets their name in the paper. They care about each other.”
Olympia’s last hope to retake the lead was a 10-foot shot with four seconds left by Chloe Scroggins, who finished with 10 points. Fieldcrest’s Alyx Carls was fouled on the rebound and ended the scoring with two free throws.
Olympia, which got the worst of a 17-15 difference in turnovers, outshot its host, .405 to .273. The Spartans only lose one senior to graduation.
“I started four years ago and they hadn’t won a game in like five years,” Hoffman said. “We called it the process. I had some really dedicated kids who wanted to put some time in and wanted to implement a system for the kids coming up. We lost tonight, but this whole season was a big victory in what we accomplished.”