Lake Clifton coach James Monroe had to laugh at the irony.
On the strength of their accurate foul shooting, Monroe's fifth-ranked Lakers had put themselves in a position to upset No. 2 Western yesterday.
It was Lake Clifton's inability to make free throws in the final twominutes, however, that allowed the visiting Doves (17-2, 13-0) to escape with a 60-59 victory and clinch the City-Wide 4A League championship.
Western also assured itself of the top seed in the Class 4A, North Region playoffs. Lake Clifton will be the second seed.
The crucial miss occurred with 3.3 seconds remaining and Western clinging to a one-point lead when Lake Clifton's Debbie Hyman failed to convert the front end of a one-and-one.
Trevetta Simpson grabbed the rebound for the Lakers, but her follow shot was unsuccessful and Western's Kimberly Smith grabbed the rebound as time expired.
"We shoot 100 free throws a day," Monroe said. "We knew this game would be won or lost on the line. It's too bad we couldn't put those last few in there."
Lake Clifton (13-2, 12-2), which led 57-55 with 2:54 left, had converted 19 of its first 22 free-throw attempts (86 percent) and 26 of 31.
But with Western leading 58-57 with 1:58 left, Lake Clifton forward Celena Falline -- who had made all nine of her previous foul shots -- missed her first attempt and her second free throw was nullified due to a lane violation.
PD The Lakers, trailing by three points with 1:12 left, then missed
the front end of a one-and-one.
But they still had an opportunity to win after a drive to the basket past two defenders by point guard Lashina Gross (team-high 19 points) pulled Lake Clifton within 60-59 with :55 left.
After an 81-61 loss at Western on Jan. 31, Monroe guaranteed the next meeting would be closer.
When he made that statement, however, he didn't expect to be without 6-foot-5 junior center Natisha Ferguson.
Ferguson, who had been averaging 19.6 points and 17.5 rebounds, is out for the rest of the season after having a benign brain tumor removed on Feb. 14.
"Without Ferguson, the girls came together and we played an intense ballgame," Monroe said. "We missed her height, but we rebounded and shot well and gave it a team effort."
Western, which was led by junior forward Chanel Wright (21 points), seemed flat in its first game since a 61-60 loss to new No. 1 Hammond in last Wednesday's Fuel Fund Classic at the Baltimore Arena.
The Doves were sparked by junior guard Tesha Tinsley (13 points), who came up with three steals after Lake Clifton had taken a 57-55 lead on Janika Conley's two free throws.
"Tesha came to play today," Western coach Breezy Bishop said. She has shown signs of tremendous leadership at times. She was probably the coolest player out there.
"I think Lake played much better than we did, but Tesha stole the ball at crucial times and we were able to execute."
The Lakers had taken a 13-10 lead after the first quarter before Western rallied to pull even at 26 at halftime.
Western appeared to be pulling away in the third quarter after holding Lake Clifton scoreless for the first 3:10 of the period while scoring nine unanswered points.