Thrills 'n Chills -- girls hoops

Kaitlin Bailey looks for help after collecting a loose ball on the baseline. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Kaitlin Bailey looks for help after collecting a loose ball on the baseline.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Buzzer-beating heroics by Gray, Bailey give the Spartan girls an electrifying 69-68 win.

Brittany Gray’s first celebratory dogpile on the basketball court was a memorable one.

After the freshman forward hit the game-winning layup as time expired, she was mobbed not only by her teammates, but also by fans and even a contingent of U.S. Marines who are friends of Jacqui Menalia’s brother-in-law.

“There was no getting out of that one,” said a weary but happy Allie Picha, who could work as a steerhand with the takedown she scored on Gray at center court. “She was going down whether she liked it or not.”

It took a while for the Bainbridge girls basketball team to take down the Lakeside Lions, but they got the 69-68 win in a Metro League game that was a four-star contest, albeit an ugly one.

Head coach Penny Gienger won’t worry about looking stylish on the court. She’ll take it and tally another one in the win column.

“We stole it,” Gienger said. “But a stolen win is better than no win.”

The hard-fought contest saw 64 turnovers and missed baskets at crucial opportunities by both teams, and an astounding 31 lead changes. Neither team got a double-digit lead.

Lakeside took an early advantage in the first quarter, but Kaitlin Bailey kept Bainbridge in it as she scored all 10 of her points in the first. Emily Farrar came off the bench to contribute four points.

In the second, Bainbridge worked the ball down low to Gray and Megan Burris, who finished with 10 points, but Lakeside forward Alex Moore-Porter was tough in the paint. She scored seven in the period to keep Lakeside up by one going into the half.

“We were trapping and they weren’t panicking on the traps, which other teams have done,” Gienger said. “It seemed like the ball was bouncing their way.”

Gray scored seven in the third, including a layup off a nice steal to give the Spartans a 46-43 edge, but Moore-Porter and Katrina Carlson scored the last six points in the period to put the Lions up by five.

After Carlson hit a jumper to push the margin to 61-54, Picha and Gray combined for an 8-0 Bainbridge run. That included Picha scoring her 1,000th point as a Spartan off a nice inbounds pass from Caitlyn Salo, and Gray hitting a layup, too, as Bainbridge reclaimed a one-point lead.

Moore-Porter could not be stopped, however. The Lakeside senior forward scored on a three-point play, then later, after she missed several putbacks underneath the basket, was fouled and hit both free throws to finish with 35 points and put Lakeside ahead by one.

After Bainbridge advanced the ball past half court, they called a timeout with 2.4 seconds left to set up the final play. They didn’t expect to get an easy bucket off of it.

“(In the huddle) we were saying if it’s open, take it,” Gray said, “but we weren’t expecting it to actually be open.”

Picha agreed.

“We were just trying to get her a foul,” she said. “Brit can go up strong and she can hit the free throws.”

But the layup came off, thanks to the precise inbounds pass from Bailey from midcourt. The plan was to go through Picha, but after Lakeside caught on, the Spartans called another timeout and went to their second option, which was Gray.

“(Coach Gienger) told Brit to go to the high post and when she got it, go score – and she did,” Bailey said. “That was awesome.”

The win not only avenges last year’s 53-41 loss to Lakeside right before the break, it also extends Bainbridge’s winning streak to eight, making it the second best start in the program’s history.

Gray finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Picha scored 13 points and grabbed 13 boards.

Bainbridge, which defeated Eastside Catholic 62-14 on Tuesday, plays in the White River tournament on Dec. 27 and 28.

They resume league play Jan. 4 at Holy Names.

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