South Carroll coach Nicole Freeman said that Megan Gorsuch sometimes struggles with foul shooting in practice. In the waning moments of last night's Class 3A West region quarterfinal at Liberty, however, the senior got it just right.
With her team clinging to a slim lead, Gorsuch made 12 of 14 attempts from the line - all in the game's final 1:59 - to lead the Cavaliers to a 49-43 win over the host Lions.
"In practice sometimes she'll struggle, but when she needs to come through she does," Freeman said.
Said Gorsuch, who finished with a game-high 14 points: "I just tried to block everything out. It all just came together at the end."
South Carroll (8-13) advanced to tomorrow night's regional semifinal, where it will play host to the winner of last night's game between top-seeded Paint Branch and Walter Johnson. Paint Branch is ranked No. 15 in the Washington area.
Though they ultimately sealed the win with free throws, the Cavaliers gained control of the game with aggressive man-to-man defense, holding the Lions (7-14) to 24 percent shooting and forcing 27 turnovers.
"We never used to use that at the beginning of the year, because our man-to-man wasn't very good, but we've been practicing a lot more," Gorsuch said. "I think that pressure, always being up close on them, kind of threw them off. They weren't expecting it."
Liberty coach Mike Boehme agreed, adding that his offense didn't react well to South Carroll's switch to full-court pressure in the second half.
"The field-goal shooting was our nemesis today," Boehme said. "She [Freeman] pressed just at the right time ... and we just didn't really handle it real well. We didn't attack it and take it to the basket."
After cutting the lead to two points on Sue Ackerman's steal and layup to start the fourth quarter, the Lions began settling for long-range jumpers, and South Carroll quickly reestablished a comfortable margin, to 41-32 with 1:34 left.
During one stretch, Liberty fired blanks on 14 straight three-point attempts.
Though a pair of three-pointers in the final minute helped Liberty pull within four, Gorsuch then erased any hopes of a comeback.
Stacey Krebs paced Liberty with eight points.
Now, the Cavaliers will look to continue their unlikely run. After losing numerous close games during the season, players say they feel like they have something to prove.
"It's been really frustrating, so we wanted to feel like the spoiler team in the playoffs," Gorsuch said. "Nobody expected us to go this far."