GENESEE – The St. Maries defenders exerted themselves, and though the refs called a whopping 48 fouls including 27 against the Lumberjacks, the physicality kept Grangeville’s shooting under wraps Thursday night, Feb. 7.
In the end, it came down to free throws.
With senior standout Paige Lindsley at the line with a chance to make up for back-to-back bricks barely a moment before, GHS coach Michelle Barger knew – absolutely knew, she said – that Lindsley would make them both.
“After she missed those two, she felt horrible, but I knew – I knew – I knew when she got up there again she would make both of these,” Barger told the Free Press after the game. “Not a doubt in my mind.”
Indeed she did, and the Bulldogs won 43-41 on a night not one of them scored double digits.
The win makes Grangeville the District I-II champion and the north’s sole representative at the upcoming 2A state tournament to be held Feb. 14-16 at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise. GHS will face District V champion Soda Springs – a possibility Barger said she foresaw the moment the state brackets were set.
“St. Maries came to play,” Barger said. “They were feisty tonight and they wanted it. I think we wanted it more. We fought till the end and made our free throws when they counted, which we haven’t always done. I was super-proud. … Hayden Hill made some huge free throws for us – clutch free throws – I was so proud of that kid. She has played awesome. Molly DeFord had a great game, and played key minutes when Bailey [Vanderwall] fouled out. I’m just proud of all of them. They deserve this win. We were having a hard time with our offense – St. Maries was playing great defense, so kudos to them. It was a super physical game. Super fun. Now we’ll play Soda Springs. They’re the No. 1 team in the state, so we’ll start preparing, give the girls a day off tomorrow, watch some film and get to work on Monday and Tuesday.”
As for St. Maries, their best chance came with their star, Madison Cordell, having made a foul shot to tie the score at 41, shooting for the lead with about eight seconds to go. She clanked it, and ended up fouling Lindsley, who delivered two daggers with four seconds left.
Earlier in the game, Grangeville had led by as many as four, 17-13, on foul shots by Camden Barger, and GHS had trailed by as many as five, 25-20, after a Cordell sent a sharp pass diagonally across the lane to beat the defense for a teammate’s layup.
Barger then had two huge hoops on her way to a team-high nine points: she canned a jumper from the elbow despite the presence of three defenders who were barely late in their rotations; the next time down, she received the ball on the left wing side just beyond the three-point arc, and when the zone defender in front of her declined to step out aggressively, Barger rose up and drained a three in her face.
But St. Maries answered with back-to-back baskets, and carried a 29-27 lead to the fourth quarter.
The teams traded the lead back and forth, but neither extended it beyond one possession, leading up to a frantic final forty seconds – full of adrenaline, misplays, and, ultimately, Lindsley’s heroics.