Overtime was not an option for the Colfax girls’ basketball team.
A possession call for Cameron was reversed in favor of Colfax after Cameron knocked the ball out of Kameri Meredith’s hands and out of play, stopping the clock at 1.9 seconds.
With the crowd roaring, Colfax head coach Joe Doucette called a timeout to work out their final play. Upon returning to the court, the Vikings perfectly executed an inbound pass to Meredith who battled fiercely at the net against three Comet defenders to sink the game-winning basket that gave the Vikings a 51-49 WIAA Division 4 sectional semi-final victory over the Comets Thursday at New Richmond High School.
Coach Doucette said they executed the play just as they had discussed during the timeout. “We just put that play in the other day and we just went with it — and it worked perfectly.”
Colfax will move on to face the No. 1, undefeated, second state-ranked Melrose-Mindoro (25-0) in the sectional championship Saturday at 7 p.m. at River Falls High School. Melrose-Mindoro defeated Durand 67-58 in their Thursday sectional semifinal to advance.
Though Cameron came out of the gate hot to hit the first two baskets of the game, Meredith threw in a triple after the Vikings came up empty on their first few possessions. That basket sparked a small 11-1 run for Colfax to put them ahead 11-5 just minutes into the game.
Cameron then went on a run of their own, adding the next nine points to take a three point lead. Colfax’s Rachel Scharlau broke Cameron’s run with a double off an offensive rebound, but the Comets followed suit to quickly regain their three point advantage.
After the Comets missed three of four opportunities at the free throw line, Meredith rallied for four points off a drive, then intercepted a Cameron pass that resulted in another double, knotting the score at 17-17 with 3:56 until halftime.
In the remaining four minutes of the first half, Colfax decided to stop playing around. Savannah Henricks put the Vikings up by three on a shot from the wing. Meredith followed up with a triple of her own off a second chance opportunity. Cameron added a pair of doubles down the stretch to keep it close at 23-21 with six seconds remaining.
On a sideline inbound play, Alyssa Dachel passed in to Meredith who was well-covered by the Comets. Under pressure, Meredith ripped away from the Comets to release the ball from the arc just as the buzzer sounded. The crowd went wild as the ball swished neatly into the net for a 26-21 Viking halftime advantage.
On and off the rails
The second half opened up similarly as the first, with Cameron adding the first two points. They followed that up with a pair of back-to-back steals, but came up empty on the other side, including two missed freebies.
Dachel found her first points of the night on a jump shot in the paint for a 28-23 lead. But Cameron came right back to tie it up at 28-28 as Colfax left shooters wide open at the arc and through the lane.
Meredith and Henricks responded with a double and triple, respectively to rise back up to a five point lead. Henricks followed those points up with two from the line after being fouled on a drive to the net.
Now with the largest lead of the game at 35-28 with 9:35 to go, the Vikings had the Comets on the rails. As Cameron drove through traffic, a charging call put the ball back into Colfax’s hands, but the Vikings could not capitalize and possession was given right back.
The Comets put their next three possessions to full use. A drive to the rim added two points and drew a foul. Though the Comets missed on their free chance, they rebounded and sank a second basket accompanied by another foul where this time they came up with a third point.
Henricks drained a triple to cancel out Cameron’s previous points, but the Comets executed a similar play as their previous two, hitting a layup and drawing another foul. But their misfortune at the line continued to haunt them as they again missed on their charity shot for the eighth time of the match.
Needing to clean up their game, Colfax slowed the pace down on their next possession, finding Dachel for two points on her second jump shot of the game and a 40-35 lead. But the Comets kept in step with a 2-pointer, followed up with three points on a double and a foul.
The Comets knotted the score once again at 41-41 with 3:16 left in regulation, but Meredith drained another basket from downtown. Cameron answered right back to make it 44-44, but Meredith lifted the Vikings back up by two with 1:35 to go.
With seconds to go...
Another charging call on the Comets gave the ball back to the Vikings. As Meredith dribbled around the outside, the Comets knocked the ball away but fouled Meredith in the scramble for possession. Meredith calmly sank both her shots and Colfax was now up by four at 48-44 with just 33 seconds to play.
In an effort to close down Colfax’s lead, Cameron drained a triple to make it a one-point game. Morgan Schleusner was intentionally fouled just as they inbounded the ball, and she connected on her second of two shots to climb to a 2-point lead. Cameron knotted the board at 49-49 with six seconds remaining.
Meredith’s buzzer-beating basket kept the Vikings out of overtime and advanced them to their first sectional championship game since 2013.
Leading scorers for the night were Meredith and Henricks with 26 and 18 points, respectively. The two combined for all eight of the Vikings’ 3-pointers. Meredith connected for three triples, seven doubles and went 3-for-5 on free throws, while Henricks hit five 3-pointers and went 3-for-4 at the line.
“Kameri played great down the stretch, she hit that big three ... I couldn’t be happier for her. She’s had a great year and she played like she didn’t want to lose tonight,” Doucette remarked following the game.
Meredith also led the team in rebound with eight grabs.
Dachel added four points on two doubles in the second half while Scharlau and Schleusner chipped in two and one points, respectively.
The Comets were defeated at the free throw line, connecting on just five of their 18 freebie chances while the Vikings shot 7-for-11.
“They’ve been in sectionals so many times, they just have a great program,” Doucette said of the Cameron team. “So, for us to beat them is a great win for us. We now have to show up Saturday with a lot of energy and do the best we can.”