Visiting Willard cut into a seven-point Carthage lead with six points in seven seconds in the final minute Thursday, but Carthage hung on for a 54-52 win in girls basketball action at Carthage High School.
Carthage led 53-44 after junior Quincy Charleston made a free throw with 1:32 left to play, but Willard trimmed the lead to seven on a basket by Brook Duncan at the one-minute mark.
Eight seconds later, Duncan made a three pointer and was fouled on the play, giving her the chance to score a rare four-point play. But officials ruled the foul occurred after the ball was in the air, and Willard maintained possession.
Seven seconds later, Duncan struck again from long range, bringing Willard within 53-52 with 45 seconds left in the game.
Carthage junior Chloe’ Shepherd made a free throw with 37 seconds left to give the Tigers a two-point lead, then senior Kaylee Morgan rebounded a Duncan miss in the final seconds of the game and was fouled by Willard. Morgan missed the free throws, but it didn’t matter at that point, with just two seconds on the clock.
“I thought we didn’t play very good in the first half,” Carthage head coach Jim Moore said. “I thought we played extremely well probably the last two or three minutes of the third quarter and about six minutes of the fourth quarter, then we didn’t finish very well. You’ve got to give some them some credit though, Duncan had some huge shots. We had a couple calls go against us, but that’s going to happen. You can’t put yourself in a position where those kinds of things can happen. We hung on. We’ve got to do a better job shooting free throws and taking care of the ball.”
The first quarter ended with both teams tied at 10, and Carthage trailed by a point at halftime after struggling at the free throw line, as the Tigers made just six of 16 free throw attempts the first half. Willard, meanwhile, was 9-for-14 at the line, part of the reason they led 26-25 at the half after 26 fouls were called the first two quarters.
The third quarter alone saw seven lead changes. Willard led by as many as five points after taking a 36-31 lead with 2:42 left in the quarter. Carthage, though, responded with an 18-3 run.
Morgan scored baskets at the 1:43 and 1:30 marks, then Charleston scored and was fouled. Her free throw gave Carthage a 38-36 lead going into the fourth.
Willard tied the game on a bucket by Duncan just 15 seconds in, but Carthage quickly built a nine-point lead.
Shepherd’s basket on an assist by sophomore Vanessa Pawlak with 6:13 left to play put the Tigers ahead 47-38. Shepherd scored again, this time with an assist by Charleston, to put Carthage ahead 49-39, but Willard started chipping away at the lead until Duncan’s two three pointers made it interesting.
Page 2 of 2 - “Give that girl credit for knocking it down and on the next possession hitting another one,” Moore said. “That’s what good teams do, they come back. I’m really proud of our girls for handling that swing.”
“We had to focus in a little bit,” Moore said of the big run. “We called a timeout. We knew we hadn’t played well, but we knew we still had time to do it. I thought when we picked our defensive pressure up and caused some turnovers, whenever that happens we feed off of that. A couple turnovers lead to easy buckets, then all of a sudden everything else is clicking. I think that’s what happened those two minutes in the third quarter.”
Shepherd led Carthage in scoring with 18 points, and Morgan added 13. Senior Hannah Blount tallied nine, Charleston had four, sophomore Leigh Ann Craig scored three and junior Emily Goeken had a point.
Willard was led by Brittany Scott’s 18 points, while Duncan scored 12.
Carthage will host Webb City at 6 p.m. Monday night.