In a first half of the season filled with near misses, the Institute of Notre Dame got itself a much-needed momentum-building victory on Saturday against Long Reach in the Public vs Private Challenge at McDonogh.
Trailing the entire game until late in the fourth quarter, Eniya Russell led the Penguins comeback with 18 of her team-high 24 points in the second half and then Ajae Petty finished things off with a put-back with four seconds remaining to clinch a 57-55 win over the Lightning.
“We needed to win a game like this because leaving the [IAAM] B Conference and coming into A is kind of hard, and we’ve had some tough games so far,” Russell said. “Games like today, though, show us we can do it. And honestly, as much we needed it, I think we wanted it even more.”
IND (3-7) coach Rob DuBose said he was particularly proud of his group for staying the course, both against Long Reach (5-4) and the entire season thus far.
“Our goal this entire season has been to just keep working and get over the obstacles in front of us. And today, they showed me resiliency,” DuBose said. “We were down, but we worked through it and we kept competing. And in that third quarter into the fourth, we finally woke up.”
Long Reach, which opened the game on a 7-0 run, was led all morning by the sister duo of Lyric Swann (28 points) and Jaelyn Swann (14). The two combined to hit 10 3-pointers and it was a shot from behind the arc by Lyric with 15 seconds left that tied the game at 55-55.
But, after a timeout, Russell’s miss on a driving layup attempt found the waiting hands of Petty (10 points) underneath the basket. Her rebound and ensuing layup ended up being the deciding points of the game.
“I was proud of the girls for their execution today both offensively and defensively, we executed the game plan very well. Unfortunately the ball didn’t bounce our way in the last five seconds there and it cost us,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield said. “Regardless of the result, though, I can’t fault the effort.”
The Lightning held leads of 17-12 after the first quarter and 28-24 at the half. The Penguins regrouped to tie the game at 41 entering the final quarter, but Long Reach had gone back up by six points with 4:42 left in regulation following a layup by Rebecca Ford (5 points).
It was at that point, however, that Russell took over. She scored her team’s next seven points to trim the deficit to one and then with 1:46 left Petty sank a layup to give IND its very first lead.
Institute of Notre Dame 57, Long Reach 55
IND (3-7): Russell 24, Petty 10, N. Smith 8, Taylor 5, Williams 3, T. Smith 3, Nimmo 2.
LR (5-4): L. Swann 28, J. Swann 14, Thompson 8, Ford 5.
Half: 28-24 LR.