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  • Val T.

Despite clutch shots, Valley girls fall to Bremen in OT in sectional final

Egolf scores 15 before fouling out; Gonzalez, Smith also in double figures


Sports Editor, RTC

Gaby Gonzalez

Hadley Wise was going to be the hero for the Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team in their Class 3A, Sectional 18 final against Bremen at Rochester Saturday.

Until Gaby Gonzalez was. Until Lucy Hayden was. Until Ava Smith was.

Until nobody was and their season was suddenly over.

Bremen junior guard Kila Foster ultimately was the hero, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds in overtime to lift the Lady Lions to a 55-53 win in overtime.

Foster scored nine of her game-high 23 points in the overtime, and Eliana Grubbs added 15 for Bremen, who

Ava Smith

improved to 14-11.

Bremen will play Hanover Central in a regional at Jimtown at 4 p.m. this Saturday.

Ava Egolf scored 15 points to lead Valley before fouling out on an offensive foul with 6.6 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 44. Gonzalez added 14, and Smith had 12.

Valley hit three 3-pointers and committed no turnovers in the overtime, but it was not enough, and they finished 19-4.

“Under normal circumstances, you hopefully come out and win that basketball game with some of the contributions you got from other people,” Valley coach Chris Kindig said. “We were right there and had the opportunity to win it, and that’s what you want to do: You want to have the opportunity to win the basketball game.”

Bremen avenged a 15-point loss to Valley on Nov. 2 and won their first sectional since 2020. On back-to-back nights, Bremen had snapped Culver Academy’s eight-game winning streak and Valley’s six-game winning streak.

“This is a team that’s been through it all year,” Bremen coach Alex Robinson said. “We’ve had highs and lows. The middle of our season was pretty rough, but we bounced back from that. I think our schedule has prepared us for games like that and moments like that. This is an extremely battle-hardened team, and I think that showed there. Even when things weren’t going our way, we were on to the next play.”

Counting losses to NorthWood in 2021 and West Noble in 2022, this marks the third time in the last four years Valley has lost to a team in the sectional that they beat during the regular season.

After Foster’s shot, Kindig used his team’s final timeout with 4.4 seconds left. Gonzalez would take a handoff and dribble in from the right wing and take a bank shot from a tough angle. She missed, but Hayden rebounded, but her putback attempt crawled off the rim as time expired as the Bremen student section rushed onto the court to celebrate with their players.

Valley had trailed 48-44 in the overtime but took their first lead since the second quarter when Gonzalez hit a 3 off the dribble. Bremen’s Emma Kincaid advanced the ball to the frontcourt but picked up her dribble along the sideline and was trapped by three Valley players, which eventually led to a held ball.

Hayden hit a 3 from the top of the key off a Chesnee Miller assist, and Valley now led 50-48 with 1:31 left.

Foster did not allow Valley to feel comfortable. She immediately answered with a 3 off a Mikayla Shively skip pass to put Bremen back ahead.

Wise missed an 18-footer, and Naomi Moyer split a pair of free throws with 40.6 seconds left.

But Smith stepped up, taking Hayden’s pass from the high post, setting up from the right wing and putting up a shot that rolled all over the tin before dropping with 26 seconds left to give Valley a 53-52 lead. It was just Smith’s eighth 3-pointer of her career.

“I’m upset,” Smith said. “I’m really upset. I think we should have gone farther than we did, but I think we had a really good game, especially towards the end. Our defense was phenomenal. I think we played so well, and I think our underclassmen really stepped up and played for us seniors too.”

Bremen called timeout with 18.5 seconds left, and Kincaid hurled a looping inbounds pass towards her basket that Grubbs caught along the baseline, but with no angle on a shot, she kicked back to the wing to Moyer, who then kicked back to Foster, who was three feet beyond the top of the key.

Miller ran out for a closeout, but it was too late for Foster’s quick release, and she buried the triple.

“Obviously, hindsight’s always 20-20, but we needed to be able to deny her,” Kindig said. “We talked about that in the huddle. We needed to play 18 seconds of good defense, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Gonzalez dribbled to the frontcourt and called timeout. The sophomore point guard was going to have the last play called for her.

“I had talked to her before the game,” Kindig said of Gonzalez. “I felt like she needed to be a little more aggressive tonight. I thought she passed up some stuff last night (in a 43-40 win over Rochester). She stepped up and did a really nice job. … She’s more than a point guard. She can score.”

Bremen closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run to take a 41-29 lead, and they still led 44-32 with 3:06 left in regulation on a Foster 3-pointer from the left corner before Valley’s tortuous fullcourt press triggered their own game-tying 12-point run.

Egolf hit a turnaround jumper. Then Gonzalez hit a 3. Smith hit two free throws after a Bremen turnover to make it 44-39 with 1:45 left.

Kincaid tried an inbounds pass from beyond the baseline past halfcourt that was intended for Moyer, but Smith stepped in the way and stole it. A whistle blew with 1:39 left. One official called Moyer for a foul, but another overruled him and called for a held ball.

Valley had the possession arrow, but a held ball call was noteworthy as Valley was in the bonus had the foul call stood.

Egolf then missed off the glass, and Smith rebounded, but Bremen earned another held ball and the arrow with 1:15 left.

But Miller stole the inbounds pass and went up for a short banker. She missed, but Wise rebounded and was fouled with 1:08 left. She split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 44-40.

After a Bremen timeout, Foster accepted the inbounds pass about five feet in front of the baseline and fell backwards out of bounds under Valley pressure for another turnover, but Egolf shot an air ball out of bounds.

But Bremen committed another backcourt turnover with Smith forcing a held ball with Grubbs. Valley had the ball again with 47.8 seconds left. Egolf missed a 17-footer from the left baseline, but Gonzalez was there for the weak side rebound and putback to make it 44-42.

Valley called timeout with 40.6 seconds left to set up their press again. But Grubbs was stripped, and Gonzalez and Kincaid were tied up for a held ball. Bremen had the arrow with 35.6 seconds left.

And then came the nuttiest sequence yet.

Bremen finally advanced the ball past halfcourt when Foster threw a hit-ahead pass to Moyer, but Egolf ran Moyer down and stripped her, and Miller recovered. She fed Gonzalez, who from halfcourt saw Wise spotting up from 18 feet from just off the right baseline.

Wise’s shot danced around the rim and kissed the glass before falling to tie the game at 44 with 22 seconds left.

And then came another Bremen ballhandling nightmare against Valley’s press. Kincaid inbounded to Grubbs, who gave up her dribble before the 10-second line along the left sideline and threw backcourt to Shively, who was hawked and then stripped by Gonzalez. By the time Kincaid recovered, Bremen was called for a 10-second violation, and Valley called timeout with 9.9 seconds left with a chance to complete the epic comeback.

“They’re just extremely physical and quick,” Robinson said of Valley’s defense.

Smith then inbounded to Egolf along the left baseline. She drove, but Grubbs was waiting for her and drew the charge with 6.6 seconds left.

“I thought she got fouled along the baseline to be honest with you, and she should have been shooting two free throws to win the game for us instead of an offensive foul,” Kindig said. “But you have to suck it up, and we were kind of toying with foul trouble all night as it was.”

Kincaid dribbled along the left sideline into the frontcourt, but Smith deflected her pass intended for Foster as the buzzer sounded.

It took four seconds for Bremen to win the tip to start overtime and Foster to score on a driving banker as she was fouled. She completed the 3-point play.

A Shively free throw with 2:43 left made it a four-point Bremen lead.

Grubbs caught a heater in the third quarter, outscoring Valley 11-8 by herself. Meanwhile, Valley did not score in the final 3:57 of the third against Bremen’s 2-3 zone and would fall behind 41-29.

Smith and Cox had buckets as part of a 7-0 Valley run in the first quarter as they took a 10-4 lead, but Shively and Foster hit treys as Bremen got within 12-10 after one quarter.

Neither team led by more than three points in the second quarter, and a Smith 10-footer from just off the right baseline tied it at 21 at halftime.

Saturday’s Class 3A girls basketball regionals

Hamilton Heights vs. Woodlan, 1 p.m. at Lapel

Benton Central vs. Norwell, 4 p.m. at Caston

Hanover Central vs. Bremen, 4 p.m. at Jimtown

New Prairie vs. NorthWood, 7 p.m. at Jimtown

Bremen 55, Valley 53 (OT)

BREMEN (55) (14-11)

Kila Foster 8 3-3 23, Mikayla Shively 2 4-8 9, Emma Kincaid 1 1-2 3, Eliana Grubbs 6 0-3 15, Naomi Moyer 0 1-2 1, Emma Lawmaster 1 0-0 2, Teagan Feathers 1 0-0 2

TEAM: 19 9-18 55

VALLEY (53) (19-4)

Gaby Gonzalez 5 1-2 14, Ava Egolf 4 5-6 15, Chesnee Miller 1 0-3 2, Ava Smith 4 3-4 12, Kelsey Cox 1 0-1 2, Hadley Wise 1 1-2 3, Dalynne Bussard 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 16 10-18 53

Three-point field goals:

Bremen 8 (Foster 4, Grubbs 3, Shively),

Valley 7 (Gonzalez 3, Egolf 2, Smith, Hayden)

Total fouls: Bremen 13, Valley 22

Fouled out: Egolf (TV), :6.6, fourth

Turnovers: Bremen 19, Valley 16

Score by quarters

Bremen 10 11 20 3 11 55

Valley 12 9 8 15 9 53

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