Despite missing far too many free throws down the stretch, the North Callaway varsity girls basketball team still found themselves tied with Sturgeon at 47-47 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation on Friday in the third-place game of the Centralia 62nd Annual hoops tournament.

Because the Ladybird's had been less than perfect from the charity stripe in the final quarter after spending almost no time there prior to that, the Lady Bulldogs were completely comfortable fouling Reyna Schmauch with 4.7 seconds remaining. When the senior then missed her first free throw, the Lady Bulldogs were more worried about the ensuing rebound and outlet pass than anything else.

That's why, when Schamuch sank her second shot, all that stood between North Callaway and a 48-47 victory was a half-court heave. While that Hail Mary came incredibly close to creating an entirely diffeent outcome,, it wasn't close enough, bringing both the bench and the Thunderbird faithful to their feet to celebrate their squads one-point win and third place finish to the Centralia tournament.

"In the huddle you have to stay positive with these girls. Having a starter out, Allie Schluetter, with a cold, that kind of effects our entire game play," said coach Morgan Beamer. "We had to adjust a lot, and the girls did a lot of that in the second quarter. We had to get in our rhythm and get things going, which we did. During a timeout we talked about how Sturgeon was on a run and we needed to get back into the game. We just stayed positive and reminded them that they could do what needed to get done."

Having ended the first down 10-8, North Callaway could only muster a basket by Kenzie Ausfahl against a basket each by Sturgeon's Emma Bright, Lizzie Ellington and Lauren Mills to extend its advantage to 20-11 at 5:17 of the second. The Lady Bulldogs then scored another eight-straight on hoops from Bright, Mills, Ellington and Kaylee Cranmer, only to see the Ladybird's Schmauch and Ausfahl hit a pair of two-pointers and a pair of three-pointers, respectively, to pull within 26-21.

"You always have plays that will at least let you get a shot off and get something going. We tried to get some quick-hitters, but what ended up working for us is that e got some quick offensive rebounds," Beamer said. "We were attacking the rim because our outside shots weren't connecting as much as we'd like. That led to some easy buckets, so we figured out a ay to score after falling into a bit of a rut."

The third began with the Ladybird's continuing to ride their momentum as Kyla Bertschinger, who had eight points and seven rebounds for the night, scored consecutive baskets to tie the game at 28-28 at 2:26. All that effort only meant so much, though, as Sturgeon once again had a five-point lead at 35-30 heading into the fourth.

"Not having Sam Schafer this year, we've had to adjust some things. These girls are still very capable of going on a big run and that started tonight," said Beamer. "We finally played our style of ball tonight and began playing with each other, playing like a team. Now we just have to keep building. I told the team this was a good start. Now let's keep it rolling."

The final session is where this game was decided and it began for the Ladybird's with Justice Hudson splitting a pair of free throws followed by a field goal from Schmauch. When Schmauch came through once again by hitting a pair of shots from the charity stripe in the face of the Mills all-out performance for the Lady Bulldogs that included 20 points for the game and going 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth, the handwriting was on the wall as to how this contest would end.

"It came down to free throws and Sturgeon wasn't missing, but we were. Unfortunatley, we still have a lot to do," Beamer said. "We should've made more free throws in the final quarter, but that's a high pressure situation and some of these girls have never been in that position. They handled it with grace, especially Reyna Schmauch, who knocked one down when we needed it most. Free throws were the difference in this game because that's how we won."

For North Callaway, 3-2 overall, Ausfahl had 21 points and three assists.

Sturgeon, on the othe hand, is 4-3 overall and got 11 points fom Ellington.