Tigers win at buzzer -- again

Tigers win at buzzer -- again

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Tigers win at buzzer -- again

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HAGERSTOWN, Ind.

Game-winning shot from Hagerstown’s Hayley Rogers? Seen it before.

It doesn’t get old for the Tigers, or for their fans. They could watch that all season.

Rogers delivered another fantastic finish for Hagerstown, and the Tigers are aiming to deliver yet another Wayne County Tournament crown in girls basketball tonight when they face Centerville at 6 p.m. in the final.

Rogers swished a jumper from around the free-throw line as time expired Friday night, lifting the Tigers to a 39-37 victory over Lincoln and setting off a Hagerstown celebration.

It wasn’t the first time.

Rogers has beaten the buzzer against three Tri-Eastern Conference teams this season. She hit a free throw against Union County when time expired for the Hagerstown win, then helped the Tigers to a critical victory over Tri High with a layup at the buzzer.

“I was just thinking, ‘I hope it goes in,'” Rogers said of Friday’s final shot. “I don’t even know how it happens.”

It happened Friday with another tenacious Tiger effort across the board.

Hagerstown held a 21-14 lead at halftime, but Lincoln chipped that down to one, 26-25, by the end of the third quarter.

The Golden Eagles, spurred by a phenomenal fourth-quarter effort from senior Kristen Meal, led 36-31 with less than a minute to play.

That didn’t faze Hagerstown.

“They just kept going,” said Hagerstown coach Chris Oliger. “When we got down five, I never thought the game was over. I knew we had an opportunity to win.”

Rogers hit a basket to pull within three with 56 seconds left, and Gabby Willis made it a two-point game with 35 seconds left.

Meal made a free throw, but another Rogers basket tied the game 37-all with 23 seconds left.

Lincoln found a shot it wanted, a 3-point attempt from the corner that hit rim. Rogers chased down the rebound and had a path to the basket for a layup her coach desperately wanted her to take.

But, an inadvertent change to the scoreboard earlier had the score at 38-37 — the last time Rogers had glanced up.

“She thought we were up 38-37,” Oliger said. “I was yelling, ‘Go,’ and she thought I was yelling to pull it out. Finally, when she heard me, she looked at the clock and then (she) realized, ‘I had to score.’ And she did.

” … Just a great job by Hayley.”

Rogers finished with a game-high 22 points, 11 of which came in the final quarter.

Meal nearly matched her. She led Lincoln with 13 points, 10 in the fourth.

Meal’s success from the free-throw line — she was 8-of-10 overall, 6-of-7 in the final frame — helped the Golden Eagles rally to take the lead.

“I told them, ‘We’re going to pound it in, pound it in and kick it out. You people out there, you have your legs under you, you’re set, fire away,'” said Lincoln coach John Lewellen. “We’ve won games like that. It just didn’t go in this time.

“They did what I wanted to on the offensive end. On the defensive end, we kind of dropped a little bit.”

Kaley Caudill scored seven points for Hagerstown, while Willis netted five. Savannah Houck grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, with Rogers adding seven and Tawni Brown six.

“They never gave up, and that’s been our attitude. Next play,” Oliger said. “Something good is going to happen. Next play.”

Freshmen Kerrigan Neff and Kylei Klein played big roles for Lincoln, with Neff scoring nine and Klein finishing with eight points and six rebounds.

Lincoln (5-7) won’t have to wait long to see Hagerstown again. The county rivals play in Cambridge City on Thursday in the TEC meeting.

“(The freshmen) contributed a lot tonight, and they have to, to help us go where we want to go at the end of the season,” Lewellen said.

” … For all the county schools, this is a big game, and she (Neff) came through just great. And you can’t say enough about Klein. She just battles and battles and battles. It’s just one of those things. We just didn’t win it this time.”

Lincoln’s loss guarantees a new Wayne County champion this year. The Golden Eagles halted Hagerstown 51-38 for last year’s title.

This is the eighth straight finals appearance for the Tigers (10-4). During that run, they won championships in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Centerville’s last county crown was in 2010.

“I’m excited. It’s my fourth year going out for the county tourney,” Rogers said. “I’m hoping to get a ‘W.’ It’s going to be as physical as it was tonight. I’m hoping we can pull it through.”

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