EAST LANSING – With 1.4 seconds to play and the game’s outcome in the balance, Bay City Glenn called a timeout to ice Marshall’s Nicole Tucker before she went to the free-throw line.
As it turned out, Tucker had ice in her veins.
She drained both attempts as the Redhawks pulled out an exciting 43-42 win, advancing to tonight’s championship game with Grand Rapids South Christian.
At the other end of the court 13 seconds earlier, Glenn’s Cassidy Boensch endured a similar scenario, timeout and all, to give her team a one-point lead.
Marshall tried everything possible in short order to convert on their last possession. Boensch blocked the Redhawks’ first shot attempt, a second rolled around and out, and Tucker was fouled on the follow-up as Boensch went for another block.
“I was a little bit nervous at first when I realized she had fouled me and I was going to the line,” Tucker said. “(During the timeout), they all told me that I do this every day at practice, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I do,’ and there would be no doubt that I was going to put them in, and we were going to win, because that’s what I needed to do to win.”
Both of Tucker’s attempts hit the front of the iron, bounded backward, kissed the glass and dropped in.
Coach Sal Konkle never had a doubt that Tucker would come through.
“I told the girls, ‘After Nicki makes these, don’t foul.’ Plain and simple,” she said. “I was confident she was going to make them, and honestly, if we wanted anyone at the line, it’s Nicki.”
Tucker was 5-of-6 from the line and led Marshall (25-1) with 14 points.
Boensch had 14 points and 16 boards, six of those coming in the final quarter, yet she was unsuccessful in her quest to get one more.
“I went in hoping to get the rebound and then went for the block,” said Boench, a Miss Basketball finalist. “Tough call, but I’m going to be replaying that one for awhile.”
The game was tight the entire way, no team leading by more than six points. Marshall led, 23-22, at the half and extended the lead by scoring the first five points of the third quarter.
Glenn’s Jamie Brisson erased that deficit by scoring on three consecutive trips up the floor, and Jenai LaPorte, who aggressively drove the lane all night, closed out the third quarter with the Bobcats’ final three baskets, staking them to a 35-34 lead with eight minutes to play.
With the win, Marshall reaches the championship for the first time since 1981, when Konkle suited up for the team.
“I’d bet you almost every fan in here, every basketball junkie thought that Marshall wasn’t going to win. And I told the girls, ‘You know what? I believe in you, believe in yourself,’ and they certainly did,” she said. “These guys are going to see to it that we don’t lose, and it’s been an amazing experience. We’ve had a heck of a year.”