Tia Richardson scored the game's last six points, the final two a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining that lifted No. 17-ranked Centennial to a thrilling 55-53 victory last night over visiting Mount Hebron.
The No. 18 Vikings, who led by seven points with 3: 03 left but did not score for the rest of the game, almost pulled it out. But Annie Collins' three-point attempt just before the buzzer hit the front rim and bounced away.
"I think we played a great game -- a perfect game up to the last three minutes," said Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson.
Said Centennial coach Dave Greenberg, who is in his fifth season at Centennial after 16 years at Mount Hebron: "This is the best comeback in all my years. It was incredible."
Richardson, a forward, described her free-throw shooting as "inconsistent." One of her earlier attempts last night was an air ball. And before she made her last two, she had hit only five of 10.
"For some reason I felt I could make them," Richardson said of her game-winning one-and-one. "I stepped up there thinking I was going to knock them down."
And she did -- nothing but net.
It was the second time this season that Mount Hebron led the Eagles late in a game but lost. On Jan. 25 at Mount Hebron, Centennial trailed by three with 1: 45 to play but scored the last nine points to win. Seven of those points were by Richardson.
The Eagles (18-2 overall, 15-1 league) also scored the final nine points last night.
Tiffaney Randle's basket gave Mount Hebron (16-5, 12-5) a 49-40 lead with 4: 04 to play. That's when Ashley Evans, Centennial's top shooter, hit the first of three straight three-pointers. Until then, Evans had made only four free throws.
"After I hit the first one, I felt like I had my rhythm back," said Evans, who finished with 13 points, 11 in the fourth quarter.
Evans' first basket made it 49-43. Then Lauren Kickham scored to make it 51-43. Evans hit another three, Kickham made another basket, and it was 53-46 with three minutes left.
Evans made her third three-pointer with 2: 02 left, cutting Mount Hebron's lead to four. A steal by Stacie Tokasz led to a Richardson basket and a two-point game with 1: 22.
Mount Hebron took a timeout, but the Vikings didn't take a shot and turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation. The powerfully built 5-foot-8 Richardson, who scored 16 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, tied the game with 31 seconds left.
Kickham (12 points) missed underneath, got her own rebound and missed a difficult follow shot. Richardson went strong to the board, grabbed the rebound and dribbled into the left corner downcourt, where she was fouled by Kickham.
Mount Hebron called two timeouts before Richardson hit both free throws.
Centennial also got some big fourth-quarter baskets by seniors Alexia Vogler and Tokasz. After Collins (team-high 15 points) gave Mount Hebron a 41-31 lead 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, Centennial used a 9-2 run to pull within three. Vogler hit back-to-back baskets and Tokasz a three-pointer in the rally.
Mount Hebron took a 7-6 lead with 3: 43 left in the first half and didn't trail again until the final five seconds. The Vikings took a 28-15 advantage into halftime.
"They [Mount Hebron] played an incredible game," said Evans. "They played great defense and hit a lot of shots we didn't expect. We just stepped it up at the end."
Pub Date: 2/19/99