Championship teams know how to finish. Part of that is never giving up.
Visiting GlenOak trailed Jackson by seven points with 1:13 left Saturday. The Golden Eagles’ hopes for a Federal League title were vanishing with every Polar Bears possession.
“We fight hard,” GlenOak guard Maddy Repp said. Then jabbing an elbow at Golden Eagles head coach Paul Wackerly, Repp said, “It’s from him.”
GlenOak did more than scrap; it won. The Golden Eagles held Jackson scoreless over the final minute and they scored on their final five possessions, with Da’Vina Shelton’s two free throws with 5.6 seconds producing a 48-47 win after the stunned Polar Bears’ desperation buzzer shot fell short.
It took some crafty coaching by Wackerly, two strong drives to the hole by Dai’Shona Polk, a Repp 3-pointer and a hustling offensive rebound by Shelton to get to the line and erase the 47-40 deficit. With the comeback win, GlenOak stayed tied with McKinley at 8-1 in the league with one game left for each.
“We’ve got some fight in us,” Wackerly said after his girls improved to 16-2 overall. “When you got the dog in a corner a little bit, all of a sudden it becomes a different type dog. I think that’s what happens to us.
“We didn’t play well today, but we found a way to win. Believe me, it’s not (the coaches); it’s these kids. They get it.”
Repp, an indefatigable senior guard, and Polk, a powerful sophomore guard, were the central players for GlenOak, and the only players in the game to score in each quarter.
Polk kept the Golden Eagles in the game with 13 of her game-high 20 points coming in the first half. Her strong drives through the post put her at the foul line early and often and Polk finished 10-for-14, compared to Jackson’s 7-of-9 totals as a team.
Repp scored 13 points, all from the floor, and knocked down a trio of 3s. Her corner trey with 23.4 seconds left pulled GlenOak within a point, 47-46.
“My teammates got me open,” said Repp. “They trusted me, so I had to do it for them.”
GlenOak had a bit more than Repp and Polk. Shelby Henkel grabbed 10 rebounds and Shelton scored four of her six points in the fourth-period rally, including connecting on both ends of her winning 1-and-1 with the Jackson crowd howling.
The Polar Bears had their own inside-outside game going in freshman guard Taylor Mikesell and senior post Abby Duffy. Each scored 14 points, with Duffy getting all of her offense in the second half, including all eight of Jackson’s third-quarter points.
Duffy put the Bears ahead for the first time in fourth quarter, 38-36, and her backdoor layup on an inbounds pass bumped the lead to five. Mikesell, who had two 3s in the first quarter, calmly swished four straight free throws to give Jackson two seven-point leads.
Then GlenOak brought full pressure, producing two Jackson turnovers, to swing the momentum.
“Up seven with a minute and a half left … it’s a game we had,” Jackson head coach Anthony Butch said. “We had it in our hands, and GlenOak stole it away.
“Those are the type of wins that if you’re going to win a Federal League championship, they went and got (it). I can’t fault the effort from our girls. And give GlenOak credit for never giving up and quitting.”
Jackson didn’t quit, but for the second straight week it lost at the buzzer.
“We’ve had one stomach punch after another,” Butch said after his team fell to 10-9 overall and 5-4 in the league. “McKinley a week ago on a buzzer-beater, now this one. Those are the top two teams in Stark County.
“We’ve proven we can play with anybody. Our record doesn’t show it but … we told the girls not to let this discourage them.”
GlenOak left anything but discouraged.
“It was very important to us,” Repp said of the victory. “We knew what we had to come out and do. We were nervous but we pulled it together.”
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