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As senior guard Sara Hodges sat on the bench and prepared to take two of the biggest free throws of her high school career, Timothy Christian coach Ryan DeKoekkoek and the Trojans stayed relentlessly positive.
Hodges, whose free throw percentage has been slightly above 50 percent throughout the season, walked out to the free throw line with 1.7 seconds remaining in a tie game and calmly sank both. Hodges’ free throws capped off a roaring comeback by Timothy Christian, which used effective defensive pressure and lights-out free-throw shooting to rally for a 44-42 victory over Ridgewood.
“Everything we talked about was positive,” DeKoekkoek said. “We said, ‘This is a great moment for you. You’re going to hit them. Stay relaxed, do your routine and shoot the ball with confidence. We all know you can make them.’ It was all positive. We didn’t let any negative thought come into her brain.”
The Rebels outscored Timothy Christian 15-3 in the third quarter to take a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold off the Trojans (11-8, 6-2 Metro Suburban Conference) in the game’s final 90 seconds. Ridgewood (2-16, 0-7) had a 40-36 lead and the ball with 1:26 remaining in the game, but the Rebels’ Emma Pisello, a senior, was called for a moving screen. The call was heavily protested by the Rebels’ bench and supporters.
Timothy Christian senior Kaylie Pries scored the game’s next six points -- on a lay-in and then four consecutive free throws -- to give Timothy Christian a two-point lead with less than 20 seconds remaining. Ridgewood senior Ines Grepo, who scored 17 points in the second half, answered with a lay-in to tie the game. But Hodges was able to get to the line – on another call that was heavily protested by the Rebels – on the ensuing possession and calmly sink both free throws.
“The girls did a great job in the second half,” said Ridgewood coach Amanda LoBianco, whose team lost 65-41 to Timothy Christian on Nov. 30. “That’s a team that will most likely win our conference. They just came off a huge win against Glenbard South and nobody’s been able to beat them except for (Timothy Christian). But it was an eye-opening experience. (We) could hang with the big dogs. If they would have played two halves (like that), what would the score have looked like?”