When the Long Reach girls basketball team needs a big play, it can usually turn to All-County guard Timisha Gomez or George Mason-bound forward Whitney Ward or four-year varsity guard LyTia Blackmon.
Last night, Jillian Allen, a call-up from the junior varsity during the Christmas break, took center stage.
Allen banked in a layup just before the game-ending buzzer sounded to propel the No. 13 Lightning to a 52-51 victory over host Atholton last night.
The win kept Long Reach in the hunt for a share of the county title. The Lightning (19-2 overall, 17-2 county) trails No. 5 River Hill (19-1, 17-1) - which defeated Mount Hebron, 62-42, last night - by a half game.
The loss spoiled Raiders senior guard Chelsey Barrett's game-high 19 points and five rebounds.
Allen's game-winning theatrics took place with eight seconds left in the game. Sophomore forward Carlie Nethken inbounded the ball to Gomez, who quickly drew a double team.
Gomez returned the ball to Nethken, who tossed a length-of-the-court pass to junior forward Charlie Beasley standing along the baseline under the basket.
The ball appeared to be heading out of bounds, but Beasley grabbed the ball with her right hand and deftly underhanded it to Allen, who turned and sank the layup. The horn sounded as the ball hit the floor.
"I was just there," said the sophomore forward, who scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. "I called for it, and Charlie gave it to me. We had to do something."
Long Reach collected a team-high 13 points, 10 rebounds and four steals from Gomez and 10 points, eight rebounds, six steals and five assists from Nethken, but that didn't prevent the Lightning from squandering a 12-point lead in the first quarter.
After trimming the deficit to two by halftime, Atholton (12-8, 11-7) opened the third and fourth quarters with runs of 10-1 and 7-0, respectively, and eventually assumed a 51-50 lead with about 40 seconds left to play.
Two possessions later, freshman forward Julie Taylor (10 points and five rebounds) stole the ball from Gomez and fed Barrett for a wide-open layup, but her left-handed attempt caromed off the rim, setting up Allen's heroics.
Raiders coach Maureen Shacreaw said she was satisfied by her team's effort.
"I think we played head-to-head with them," she said. "It came down to that last play of the game. We needed to execute a little bit better, but we played well."