- By Evan Merrill Sports Editor
- Mt. Carmel Register
MOUNT CARMEL -- Lake Land gave No. 18 ranked Wabash Valley College all they could handle on Wednesday night.
Despite the Lady Warriors seemingly on the verge of pulling away late, the Lady Lakers stormed back to make the contest a nail-biter, one Wabash Valley would escape with an 80-75 victory in nonetheless.
Lake Land kept within striking distance in the first quarter, making the plays needed to hang with the blistering pace the Lady Warriors play at, though Wabash Valley would maintain a slim 15-13 lead at the end of the first following a driving score by sophomore Monique Pruitt.
After another drive by Pruitt, the Lady Warriors kickstarted a 9-0 run to start the second quarter, with scores by freshman Jazmyn Turner, sophomore Keya Patton and a 3-pointer by sophomore KK White highlighting the run.
Following the conclusion of a relatively low scoring first half, Wabash Valley led 35-25.
Coming out of the locker rooms is when the matchup started to get a little chippy and turned into all out war.
Lake Land used a 12-6 run to cut the Wabash Valley lead down to 41-37 with 6:29 remaining in the third, spurring a timeout by a disgruntled Wabash Valley Coach Lacey Shalenko.
Her team responded well, quickly pushing the lead back to double-digits, with Patton securing an offensive board and putback to beat the sounding buzzer of the third quarter and put her team ahead 57-45.
Patton's Lady Warriors continued their strong play for much of the fourth quarter, offering a vibe as if the game were all but over with three minutes and change remaining in the contest, with Wabash Valley ahead 70-54.
That's when the improbable started to seem possible and Lake Land went bonkers from behind the arc.
Lake Land started it off with a 3-pointer with 2:50 left, then followed that with a number of scores. Still, Wabash Valley led 74-62 with 1:10 remaining, but the Lady Lakers' level of desperation kicked into another gear.
It started with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, a steal on the inbounds play for another three, and all of the sudden you started to feel nervous as a Wabash Valley fan.
Shalenko signaled for a timeout, hoping to squash the run in its tracks, but her team was called for a five second violation on the ensuing inbound. Shalenko pleaded her case for a timeout to the official nearest to her bench, but was not granted one.
Lake Land's Arie Sims slashed to the other basket to cut the margin to 74-70 after the turnover, but the Lady Lakers sustained a major blow to their comeback aspirations on the ensuing possession.
As they set up their press hoping to force a turnover, a miscommunication left Turner open for a transition layup, a crucial bucket that late in the tight contest. After Lake Land failed to score, they fouled Turner intentionally, sending her to the line where she knocked down 1-of-2 for the charity stripe.
Lady Laker Abigayle Weis knocked down a clutch 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds remaining, trimming it back down to 77-73 and providing a glimmer of hope.
Once again they fouled intentionally, this time fouling sophomore Krisen Hunt, who knocked down 1-of-2 at the line with 8.9 seconds remaining.
After another tough Lake Land jumper on the other end, the lead was suddenly at a one possession game, 78-75 with 3.4 seconds remaining. Lake Land signaled for a timeout, knowing their only change was to force another turnover.
This time Wabash Valley cleanly inbounded it, with Pruitt knocking down both of her free throws to ice the game.
"The team shoots like 24, 25 percent from three on the year and a couple of girls for them hit some big shots," Shalenko spoke of the ending. "Some kids who've hit three threes the whole season hit four tonight. They hit shots, we just had to play through it."
Wabash Valley's execution down the stretch was certainly less than what Shalenko would have liked, but a ton of credit has to go to Lake Land, as the Lady Lakers continued to battle against a seemingly improbable deficit. Still, a game such as this will be a welcome one to Shalenko's team, as they'll need to experience a level of adversity in order for them to reach the aspirations which they eye. Especially adversity against a previously unbeaten team in Lake Land.
"It was a good win for us," Shalenko said. "It was a hard fought game. Lake Land's a good team, they play super hard and played til the end. I thought we did a good job of fighting through adversity and pulling it out."
Patton led all scorers once again with 28 points, seven boards and six assists. Turner was a beast on the boards for the Warriors, securing a 17-point, 12 rebound double-double in the victory. Lake Land was led by Sims' 23 points.
"We knew from the start that it'd be a tough game," Patton spoke of the victory. "We felt that we were the better team, so we felt like if we did what we needed to do and continue to get stops we'd be fine."
Wabash Valley was notably without sophomore point guard Bre Beck as expected tonight. Beck sustained a high ankle sprain in Saturday's game against Shawnee. They have yet to announce an official timetable for her return, but hope for her to return sooner rather than later.
Shalenko's team has just two more contests separating them from a lengthy Christmas break, with a three week gap between contests. They'll close out 2019 on the road, traveling to face John A. Logan on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 1 p.m., then in the St. Louis Community College Classic.