Jason Searcy could not point to one person as a standout in Friday night’s Class 2A Sectional 41 semifinal.
For Jeremy Powers it was easy.
Eight days after Powers’ Eastern Hancock team defeated Centerville by three points, the Bulldogs turned the tables.
“Two words: Makayla McFarland. That’s it,” Powers said.
McFarland missed the Jan. 31 loss for Centerville, but on Friday, the junior hit six of Centerville’s seven 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 29 points, as Centerville defeated Eastern Hancock 68-66 in a thrilling first semifinal decided in overtime.
The Bulldogs (9-9), who won the program’s first sectional in school history last year, get to defend it today against Knightstown, which defeated Hagerstown 55-41 in the second semifinal.
“I just knew that we were going to fight back, we weren’t going to stop, we were not going to let them have the win again,” McFarland said.
Here’s two more words that Powers can point to: Morgane Chenowith.
After the Royals (17-5) got out to 9-0 lead in the first quarter and led 17-12 after the first quarter, McFarland completed a four-point play that pulled the Bulldogs within one.
Chenowith then stole the ball, hit a layup and gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the ballgame, 23-22.
The Bulldog junior turned it on late, scoring six points in the fourth quarter and seven of the team’s 10 overtime points, for a total of 21.
“It makes you feel good when you know you’ve got that momentum to get back into the game,” Chenowith said referring to her second-quarter steal. “It makes you feel really good, because you know that you’re going to win.”
But the momentum went the Royals’ way late.
Alora Marshall hit a game-tying layup with 3 seconds left, shocking Centerville and its fans.
Then, the Royals started the overtime period with a 3 from Kiersten Schrope.
“I felt confident coming into (overtime),” Powers said. “I felt like we had the momentum back on our side. I felt like we had finally caught a break, and we hadn’t caught some breaks in the last two or three minutes of the game.”
But after the Royal 3, Chenowith went on a run, scoring the next five points, and the Bulldogs squeaked out the win.
Ally Moore added 10 points for the Bulldogs, while Kayla Miller brought down a team-high nine rebounds.
Chenowith and Alexa Lingg each had seven boards.
“That was a great game, and our kids just fought and fought and fought. You hate to see either team lose like that, and our kids stuck with it, and they kept believing. (The Royals) kept getting shot after shot after shot, and we just kept answering, and they stuck with it,” Searcy said.
” … We’d love to win another (sectional). Our kids, we have a tough schedule and we prepare them for this and hopefully that gets us ready and we’ll be ready for (tonight).”
In the nightcap, Courtney Rogers hit an early 3 to give Hagerstown a momentary lead, but the Panthers rode the inside game of Emily Thomas to a 17-12 halftime edge.
Thomas scored Knightstown’s first 12 points, but was held to just a layup in the fourth quarter, finishing with a team-high 14.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’ve got to stop Thomas, or she’s going to go for 30,'” Hagerstown coach Chris Oliger said. “She doesn’t score until the very end there. But they hit their perimeter shots — and they hit their free throws.”
Hagerstown was able to tie the game at 10- and 20-all, but could not pull ahead.
With the score tied at 20 in the third quarter, Macy Burton converted a three-point play as the Panthers ended the period on a 7-1 run, leading 27-21 after three.
“I thought that was a momentum swing, and then we lost the ball, and they stole it right away and scored again,” Oliger said. “Hats off to Knightstown. I wish them all the luck tomorrow night against the Bulldogs. I think that will be a great battle as well.”
Hagerstown was able to trim the deficit to four, but had a pair of treys blocked in the final seconds.
Hayley Rogers led the Tigers (12-10) with 19 points and Courtney Rogers added 11 points along with a team-high six rebounds. Savannah Houck also brought down six boards.
Tonight’s championship is scheduled for a 7:30 tip-off.
The Bulldogs defeated the Panthers (14-8) 50-45 on Nov. 17.
“Centerville’s got two great players. We played them early,” Knightstown coach Dawn Basicker said. “They’re a little bit bigger. They’re more patient. Jason does a great job with them. They’re just a different team. … We’ll just have to go out and see.”