FAIRMONT — The left corner was vacant almost all game for Fairmont Senior against Bridgeport’s 1-3-1 zone, but with just over 10 seconds to go and the Lady Polar Bears trailing by three, 61-58, the area had produced only a series of bonks and clanks.
Yet, as FSHS freshman Marley Washenitz drove down the lane with the clock dwindling and the defense collapsing on her, she kicked out to Stephanie Vincent spotting up in that same pesky spot.
Vincent drilled the clutch triple to send the game into overtime, where the Polar Bears eventually finished off the Indians, 69-66, withstanding a scoring masterpiece from Bridgeport’s Emily Riggs with 39 points in the process on Thursday at the 201st Fairmont Senior High School Field House.
“She was looking at me like, ‘Coach, I’m gonna make it,’” FSHS coach Corey Hines said of Vincent’s game-tying 3. “She was struggling a little bit, but we knew she was gonna get it back because that kid plays hard.
“Initially we had two different plays set up — we had a just in case — and Marley penetrated the seam and (Bridgeport) took away our first look but she was able to kick to our second look and Steph banged it.”
Still with 7.1 seconds on the clock, Bridgeport had its own last gasp in regulation as Riggs got the ball back and after the baseline inbound and zoomed down the court, missing a one-footed layup amidst contact as time expired.
In overtime, free throws and a bullying turnaround on the block by FSHS’s Anysa Jordan, who had a team-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds and three steals, gave the Polar Bears a 65-64 lead they would never relinquish. Washenitz nabbed a pick-six layup to make it a three-point game before Courtney Wilfong ripped a steal on Bridgeport’s final possession to seal the victory.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose it this way,” Bridgeport Dennis Hutson said. “We had the game in hand there at the end and then made a couple of mistakes, but I’m really proud of the kids’ effort.
“We just turned it over too many times there in the overtime period, and we have to get somebody else to step up and hit a bucket here and there besides Emily Riggs.”
Riggs was a revelation in the second half and overtime, where she poured in 32 of her 39 points as she finished the game 11-of-22 from the field and 14-of-16 from the foul line. Whether it was meandering drives in isolation in Bridgeport’s five-out offense, 94-feet dribble excursions through the FSHS press or hit-aheads from center Rory Marple when the Indians inverted the floor, Riggs got the rim in bulk, while also burying 3-of-5 triples.
“We just spread the floor more and got her more looks in the open floor,” Hutson said of Riggs’ second-half explosion. “They stayed man more and didn’t go into the zone trap and stuff as much, so we were able to clear out, which enabled her to get to the rim.”
Although Riggs foiled almost every look in the second half in some fashion, Hines deployed myriad defensive strategies, showing a 2-1-2 full-court and half-court press, a 1-3-1 half-court trap, full-court man and half-court man, all complete with the Polar Bears’ hallmark physicality that puts officials into a bind of what to call and what not to.
“They’re very physical, which were not, and that makes it very difficult for us to adjust to that type of play,” Hutson said. “We didn’t handle all of the contact well sometimes.”
The defections, strips and pokes saw the Polar Bears prod 25 turnovers out of the Indians, while giving it away just seven times themselves. Washenitz, at the top of the majority of the pressure schemes, was the stickiest thorn for Bridgeport’s ball handlers as she nabbed five steals to go with 10 points and 11 rebounds in what was an excellent performance in the floor game to offset a 3-of-16 shooting night.
In fact, Fairmont Senior as a whole struggled from the floor, shooting just 23-of-83, a 27.7 percent clip.
“I really can’t complain because we got the looks that we wanted,” Hines said. “We just couldn’t make any shots. Even when we were getting rebounds, we were struggling to convert the putbacks.”
Bridgeport, by contrast, shot 43.8 percent from the field, but attempted a whopping 35 less shots than the Polar Bears, a byproduct of the 25-7 turnover differential and a customary punking on the glass by FSHS that manifested in 29 offensive rebounds. Jordan, Washenitz and Abby Faulkner, who went 6-for-25 shooting for 19 points, scarfed up 18 of those second-chances themselves as all three tallied double-doubles.
Six offensive rebounds and a 5-1 turnover margin in the opening eight minutes helped FSHS build a 16-12 first-quarter lead, but Bridgeport scored the first four points of the second period with an and-one layup by Riggs on a pass and cut and an up-and-under by Paige Humble, who drew Hutson’s postgame applause as she finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Faulkner hit a baseline jumper to swing the lead back to Fairmont Senior before the two teams went back-and-forth. Using Marple, who had six points, nine rebounds, five assists and seven blocks, intricately in the press-breaking process alleviated some of the congestive pressure for the Indians as she spied skip opportunities with her tall frame. Deep initial inbound catches followed up by speedy relays to the middle and the opposite sidelines also earned Bridgeport a few favorable numbers advantages.
Bridgeport grabbed a 20-19 lead with 1:22 until the half as it walled off the paint, but Jordan went to work with seven quick points to give FSHS the 28-22 halftime lead.
Another Jordan bucket after a high post touch kept Bridgeport at bay at 33-27, but the Indians ticked off seven straight — including a pair of layups by Riggs, the first a coast-to-coast and-one after a steal — to go up 34-33 midway through the period. The Indians took the one-point lead — 43-42 — into the fourth as another set of back-to-back Riggs layups countered a bludgeoning by FSHS on the offensive boards.
A catch-and-shoot wing 3 by Riggs and nasty transition Eurostep finish ballooned the margin to six, but Faulkner snatched back-to-back offensive rebounds for an and-one finish and then free throws to whittle the gap to three at 54-51. “I was really impressed with Abby and how she stepped up,” Hines said. “She played hard.”
Bridgeport shot the lead right back up to seven before Fairmont Senior rallied one last time, kickstarted by a dazzling pass-fake, sidestep scoop finish by Washenitz that cut it to 58-53. A bruising turnaround bucket by Jordan from the high post got it all the way back to a tie game at 58-58. When Bridgeport nudged ahead again, Vincent once more evaporated it, this time in the most thrilling of fashion with the game-saving trey, her only points of the night.
Email Bradley Heltzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.