With the way Panther Creek came up in the clutch time and again on Thursday night, Middle Creek could have easily lost hope. The host Catamounts capitalized on Middle Creek miscues to force overtime, then a second overtime and then a third.
But Middle Creek withstood the soul-crushers and back-breakers to pull out a 70-66 triple overtime barnburner.
“Every time you go into overtime, it’s a new game. You’ve got to have a fresh start,” said senior Holly Hite, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. “You can’t worry about the last play, you’ve got to worry about the second play.”
Hite’s four quick points in the third overtime were the jolt her team needed, because winning its first Southwest Wake Athletic Conference game of the year did not come easy for Middle Creek (5-5, 1-2).
The Mustangs went 2-for-6 from the line in the final stages of the fourth quarter and first overtime, which opened the door for Panther Creek (3-9, 0-3) heroics.
The Catamounts’ Cassie Zietlow (13 points) was fouled on a putback with 11.8 seconds left in regulation. The basket was good, but the free throw was off, and moments later the game went into overtime 51-all.
In the first overtime, Zietlow was left alone in the corner for a 3-pointer to tie the game at 57-all with 2.9 seconds left and force a second overtime.
“It’s wild,” Middle Creek coach Wes Petty said. “I thought we were going to close them out at the end of regulation.”
After making 4-of-6 free throws in the last minute of the second overtime, Panther Creek led by three. Middle Creek, without a timeout, had to scramble with 10.2 seconds left.
Amanda Sales found Kylie McElroy (19 points, six steals, six rebounds, six assists) at the top of the key, where she banked in a 3-pointer to send it to a third overtime tied at 63-all.
“We say a little prayer, Kylie banks in that 3, we get to keep playing,” Petty said. “We just gutted it out, that’s the bottom line.”
Hite had the third overtime’s only field goal and Middle Creek was a 5-of-6 from the free throw line to close out the win.
Middle Creek’s Ali Ayan led all scorers with 20 points (six steals) while Natalie McBryde added 10. Panther Creek’s Jasmine McKoy had 16 points (six rebounds, five steals) while Isis Lett had 12 and Kate Ulveling added six with a game-high nine assists.
Middle Creek led 29-24 at halftime.
Mustangs starter Lily Podolsky left the game early in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Unable to put any pressure on it, she left the court in a wheelchair but it was believed to be just a bad sprain.