Walled Lake Western gets OT redemption, beating Walled Lake Central for Lakes Valley tourney championship
COMMERCE TWP. — With failure comes the chance at redemption.
Jenna Galecki, one of No. 10-ranked Walled Lake Western’s most consistent free-throw shooters missed two chances to seal up Thursday’s Lakes Valley Conference tournament championship game from the line, leaving the door open.
Through it stepped Walled Lake Central senior Maria Teodoro, who airballed one chance at a game-tying 3-pointer, but got redemption on her second try, sending the game to overtime.
That’s when Galecki got her redemption, too, going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the extra period, helping the Warriors close out a 55-52 win, and their second straight LVC title.
“Galecki went to the line for two one-and-ones, and she’s shooting 87 percent from the line. She misses, and I said, ‘Oh, geez, now we’re going into overtime,’” Western coach Steve Emert said. “She hit them in overtime.”
Galecki missed with 1:02 left and 46.3 left, leaving the Warriors (18-1, 8-0 LVC) with just four fourth-quarter points. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake, hitting the game-tying and -winning free throws with 1:07 left in the extra frame, then padding the lead with two more with 20.3 left.
“I know. I was disappointed. I got hit in the eye, but that can’t stop me. I was bummed, but I knew that second I went to the line the next time, I was going to knock them down,” said the junior, who tied for the game’s scoring lead with 20 points. “We never panicked. We just kept our heads together. We weren’t playing not to lose, we were going to play to win, and we just had to keep going.”
The win finishes off another season of league dominance for the Warriors, who have gone 23-1 in LVC competition since the league’s creation prior to last year, losing only to Waterford Kettering (47-40 on Dec. 12, 2017) in league play. Since the LVC moved from double a double round-robin format to single this season, to accommodate the tournament, the second game against Central — when the Vikings handed Western its only loss of the season to date — was non-conference.
“It was a great team win for us. Central’s a really, really great team, and we put on the best show. It’s an awesome rivalry, and they’re just fun to play,” Galecki said. “It was awesome, a great team win, and a great preparation for us, and we hope to keep going in the districts.”
If already guessed it, that’s the punch line to the whole situation: The two teams meet again Monday at 7 p.m., in a first-round district game at Walled Lake Northern.
The Vikings, who finished third in the LVC regular season and second in the tournament, are hoping those close losses (and one win) bode well for the fourth meeting.
“Couldn’t be more proud of these kids. We’re down — what, (15)? — three minutes into the third quarter, against a heck of a basketball team over here, and they battled and battled and battled. It’s what these kids do all year long. They’ve competed in close games. Their home floor, this atmosphere … Couldn’t be happier and we’re going to get another shot on Monday,” Central coach Bob Schopf said, admitting the quick turnaround rematch is a tough one.
“Very difficult. We just told the kids, and we’ve been sort of saying this all week, ‘This is the end of the regular season. Now it’s tournament time. Two separate seasons.’ I don’t want locker room material, but it’s not on their court, it’s on a neutral court. We’ve beaten them, we’ve gone to overtime with them, we lost by eight at our house. These are two pretty evenly-matched teams, and it’s who makes the plays. They made one more than we did tonight.”
The Warriors came out of halftime hot, finally getting a chance to move at their pace, scoring six quick transition buckets to open a 15-point lead at 35-20. For most of the game, the Vikings had been doing what they did in the non-conference win: slowing the game down, playing a 2-3 zone, and handling the Western pressure with the ball-handling of senior Rizaria Franklin.
“They slowed it down. It was 33-32, and we never got a run,” Emert said of the loss to WLC. “Tonight, we got a run, and broke it, and then we let them back in. I told the girls, ‘Don’t let them back in. They’ll come back hard.’ Sure enough, they did.”
Central roared back with seven straight points to cut the lead back to six. Olivia Warren’s three-point play with five seconds left in the third gave Western a seven-point lead, 42-35, headed to the fourth.
But attempting to slow the game down, and run clock, the Warriors only scored four points, leaving the door cracked. Teodoro capped the comeback with her 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
“Huge. Senior that’s been doing it for us for four years. I can’t say I’ve never seen her make that shot before, but in that situation, very clutch,” Schopf said. “We had told her — they were running her man at our point guard, and we said ‘Shoot it with confidence.’ She had just airballed one from the top, but you know what? She caught it and lifted it. She’d done it 100 times.”
Franklin, who matched Galecki’s 20 points for the scoring lead, hit two free throws to start the overtime period, then Abbey Renner and Olivia Emert both hit go-ahead buckets in the extra period.
“The thing I was really frustrated about tonight was that we spent five days (working on) taking the charge, but it looked like we were playing Spanish ole,” Emert said. “You can’t do that against Riz. You gotta step in, keep your feet flat on the floor, and then you’ll be fine.”
Kailee Ford, who had 18, hit a go-ahead 3 between those two baskets, then Galecki made her shots from the line to push the lead to three.
Franklin had a shot to tie it in the final seconds of the overtime, but couldn’t connect.
“When the ball’s in Riz’s hands, good things happen. She finds open people, she creates her own shot. No, with six seconds left, and she had a five-foot gap on that kid? Usually those go in.
We’ll take it,” Schopf said. “The ball’s in her hand 90 percent of the time. She knows when to catch her rest, she knows where to get a breather. She’s a gym-rat. She plays year-round. We’ve loved having her, and I’m glad we have her for Monday.”