With two minutes to play Saturday, Centerville’s Morgane Chenowith dove for a loose ball across the floor at the Knightstown High School gymnasium, bumped into a Knightstown girl and was called for her fifth foul of the game.
Centerville head coach Jason Searcy would have it no other way.
Chenowith’s hustle on the play symbolized what Searcy has seen from his players all year, and what he saw throughout the night Saturday.
In the end, Knightstown’s depth was too much and the IHSAA Class 2A Sectional 41 host team held up the championship trophy after a 54-45 victory over last year’s champion Centerville.
“Our kids fought, they wanted this and that’s what we talk about,” Searcy said. “They gave us the effort and that’s all you can ask for.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Chenowith’s fifth foul was also symbolic of tough breaks that went Knightstown’s way.
Chenowith led the Bulldogs (9-10) with 13 points, Ally Moore added 11 and Alexa Lingg scored 10, but eight of Lingg’s 10 were in that fourth quarter, including all on a 6-2 run that gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the first quarter, 39-37.
Lingg fouled out about 30 seconds before Chenowith.
“The fourth quarter, (the Bulldogs) really executed well and we made a run and we got back in it, but sometimes you need a break, and the breaks just didn’t go our way there at the end of the game,” Searcy said.
A night after winning a 68-66 thriller in overtime, the Bulldogs started out cold, shooting an unofficial 5-for-27 from the field in the first half, including 1-for-6 from 3-point territory.
“It may have been fatigue a little bit, we tried to slow it down, because we thought that may have been an issue, but I thought the effort was there and sometimes you just don’t make the shots, and tonight was just one of those nights,” Searcy said.
The Panthers led 12-9 after the first quarter, 20-17 at halftime and 32-25 after three, before the Bulldogs got back into it.
Teams traded baskets, before McFarland hit only the second trey of the game for Centerville – both from her – and Moore completed a three-point play to bring Centerville within 37-35.
Lingg then scored the next six Centerville points, before she and Chenowith fouled out.
Knightstown finished the game on an 11-4 run.
McFarland added eight points for Centerville, while she and Lingg each finished with a team-high seven rebounds.
Moore and Kayla Miller each finished with six.
Kori Biehl led the Panthers (15-8) with 16 points, while Emily Thomas and Jill Gross each had double-doubles. Thomas finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Gross had 12 points and a team-high 13 boards.
The Panthers advance to play the winner of the Speedway sectional.
“It was a great game, went back and forth, we knew it was going to be tough,” Knightstown coach Dawn Basicker said. “I know that the Miller kid and the McFarland kid are great players, Chenowith and Lingg, they had a great game, they didn’t quit, I was certainly proud of our kids for the way the ball went and then they didn’t give up and battled back, so it was just exciting for them.”