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Nazareth senior Kayla Freeman was disappointed that she didn’t advance in the three-point contest.
She proved she could hit one with a regional championship on the line though during Thursday’s Class 3A St. Joseph regional championship against Aurora Central.
After Aurora Central senior Lisa Rodriguez (17 points) banked in an off-balance shot to tie the game at 44-44 with 22 seconds remaining, Freeman (14 points) took a pass from junior Katelyn Cahill (nine points) and swished a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded for a 47-44 victory.
“I can’t even explain the feeling to be honest, because it’s such a great feeling,” said Freeman, who also had a buzzer beater to beat Providence earlier this year. “But I never could have done it without my teammates and their support throughout the whole game. That was the most important thing in the game.”
Freeman’s heroics overshadowed a great effort by the Chargers to rally just to tie the game.
Aurora Central (14-15) fell behind 27-16 more than midway through the third quarter as they couldn’t get anything going offensively. Finally, Alex DeCraene (12 points) delivered a three-pointer with 1:43 left in the quarter to end a scoring drought that lasted just under nine minutes.
“Honestly, we were dead and gone three or four times in the game,” said Aurora Central coach Mark Fitzgerald, “But we walk out of here with our heads held high. It took a miracle three at the end for us to lose this game so hats off to them. It’s not going to take anything away from the fact that we were there the whole game and never stopped.”
Nazareth won despite losing starter Molly Alberts to an ankle injury with 2:50 left in the opening quarter as well as having three of its other four starters playing with 4 fouls apiece with 5:29 left in the contest.
“We needed a good bench and that was key tonight,” said Nazareth coach Kim Connell. “Tre (Tetre’anah Cross) and Devinne Love and Eileen Kennedy all came off the bench and really came up big tonight.”
Both teams struggled from the free throw line and in handling the ball. Nazareth committed 30 turnovers while Aurora Central had 20. Meanwhile, the Chargers converted 18-of-25 free throws while Nazareth’s woes nearly cost it the contest, making just 13-of-25.
“It was a great basketball game tonight,” Connell said. “To go back and forth like that and then to have that kind of finish.”
Cross finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the winners.