So confusing and intense were the endless final seconds of the unbeaten Menomonee Falls girls thrilling 64-61 victory over host DSHA Friday night that veteran assistant coach Brian Kirt said he thought he might pass out.
But in this clash of Greater Metro Conference heavyweights, the Indians wavered, but eventually made enough plays to win the split decision.
"No matter what, we deserved this," said senior forward Alex Poole, who had 15 points to lead Falls. "We've put in the work and the time again and again and earned this."
That they did, as Falls scored its first win over the Dashers in years and kept a share of the GMC lead with border rival Sussex Hamilton (3-0 league, 5-0 overall). The Indians (3-0, 7-0), will go to Homestead Saturday at 6 p.m. for a nonconference tilt with area rival Germantown (0-5). They have not had a winning record since their 18-4 mark of the 2006-07 season.
"We are fortunate and very happy about this and also very excited about it too," said veteran coach Craig Amundson, "and I know this is going to sound like coach-speak, but it really only counts once in the win column."
"We have a lot of respect for them (the Dashers) and I have the feeling that when we play them again, it's going to be another war.
Not that this one wasn't.
Behind some deft inside-out play and a devastating 1-3-1 halfcourt trap defense, Falls built on a 34-27 halftime lead and looked like it was going to run away and hide in the first few minutes of the third quarter.
A 12-0 run, highlighted by junior point guard Amber Bullock (12 points), gave the Indians a 46-29 advantage with 5:13 remaining in the third.
But after Dasher coach Scott Witt burned a time-out, DSHA (2-1, 5-3) turned tables on the Indians, becoming the aggressor in the half-court defense and turning in its own 12-0 run that cut the deficit to 46-41 with 2:32 left in the third.
Precocious and immensely talented freshman point guard Arike Ogunbowale scored six of her game-high 32 points in the outburst.
"We turned the tide a little bit and became the aggressors," said Witt. "We started dictating the pace instead of being dictated to."
Falls temporarily got its ship righted with buckets from junior center Erin Crownover (13 points) and junior forward Monica Carlson, but the Dashers scored the final six points of the session to cut the margin to an improbable 50-47.
Bullock said the Indians couldn't afford to let themselves get caught up in the moment.
"We couldn't let ourselves worry about it," she said. "We just had to continue playing like we could, stay composed."
Easier said that done in a fourth quarter that closely resembled a vintage Ali-Frazier heavyweight fight for all its jabs and counter-punches.
Junior guard Maggie Novak hit a three for DSHA to tie the score on the first possession of the period and the fight was on.
Two minutes later, Ogunbowale hit a drive to give the Dashers their first lead since late in the first quarter 54-52
But the Indians did not fold, as behind a dominating effort on the offensive boards, they created opportunity after opportunity for themselves.
Bullock hit a drive to to tie the score at 54-all with 5:54 remaining and after forcing two DSHA turnovers, Mikayla Robertson hit a putback on the third Falls' try to give the Indians the lead at 56-54 with 4:47 left.
Falls would never trail again.
"After that run of ours, it seemed that neither team could really gain its footing again," said Witt. "It just went back and forth. ...but their offensive rebounding just killed us down the stretch. Their athleticism and our poor blocking out was a recipe for disaster."
At the 2:49 mark, Crownover hit one of two free throws to give Falls the lead for good at 59-58. A few seconds later, senior guard Rachel Defnet arched a shot high off the glass on still another putback to make it 61-58.
And when the normally hard-charging Falls team pulled it out and aslowed it down, Poole was found in the post to make it 63-58 with 1:21 left.
But the Dashers weren't done, as Novak hit the last of three, three-pointers with 1:12 left to make it 63-61.
However, Falls was able to control much of the remaining clock. Amundson was able to save four timeouts for the stretch and needed every last one of them.
"It was better to have them when we were ahead as opposed to being behind," said Kirt.
The Indians missed one shot, but recovered the ball. They called a timeout with 50 seconds left and then proceeded to run more clock. When Bullock was in danger of being trapped onthe baseline, Amundson called another TO with 27 seconds to go.
Defnet was fouled with 17 seconds left, but missed the front end of the bonus. The Dashers ran two sets on the baseline but couldn't get a good shot off and eventually Ogunbowale lost the ball out of bounds on the baseline with just 1.3 seconds.
Which proceeded to then take an eternity. DSHA tapped the ball out of bounds on the first Falls inbounds attempt leaving .8 of a second left.
Bullock got the ball with .8 of a second left and was fouled with .5. It seemed like to Falls' partisans that a lot more time should have ran off the clock in that situation.
Bullock proceeded to hit the front end of the bonus to make it 64-61, but she missed the second try. Ogunbowale grabbed the rebound and that's when the confusion set in.
It had been reported by the PA announcer a few moments before both teams were out of time-outs, but Witt and Ogunbowale were working with the understanding that they had one left.
The officials conferred at the scorer's table and eventually granted DSHA a time-out and put .3 of a second back on the clock.
The ball came in, a long shot went off and caught the side of the iron. It would not have mattered if it had gone in or not, as the official waved off the attempt saying time had elapsed beforehand.
Everyone on the visitor's sideline then breathed a sigh of relief.
"The last 17 seconds felt like a day, and I still really didn't know what happened (in those last few seconds)," said Amundson. "I was trying to get some questions answered but I still wasn't clear with what happened."
Except that his team had won a very important victory.
"Really, it didn't surprise me that they came back at us," he added. "This has happened to us before in the Riverside game (at the start of the season), but this was the first time someone had taken the lead on us in this situation."
"I really don't know what this showed in us, but I know I want a lot more of it."
The players knew it too and weren't about to let go of this feeling.
"We can't get complacent after something like this,' said Bullock. "We've got to keep working."
"All I know is that this shows that Falls' is back," said Poole.
Maybe to stay.
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