With just over four minutes left in the game, the Mark Twain girls' basketball trailed Clark County 34-23 and that's when the game got interesting.
The Lady Tigers rallied with an 11-0 run to tie the game at 34-34 with 14 seconds left in regulation, before eventually losing 35-34 when Clark County sank a free throw with 5 seconds left in the game at the 70th Annual Tony Lenzini Basketball Tournament in Palmyra Monday night.
Mark Twain head coach Alex Brandenburg was pleased with the way his team played and never gave up.
"These girls have worked hard," Brandenburg said. "I have been telling them every day, especially these last three games on Friday, Saturday, and today, that they have been improving every day. Today just showed that we can compete at a high level."
Junior Mackenzie Grossmann started the Lady Tigers' run with a layup with 4:10 left on the clock to get the Lady Tigers within 9 points. Kyley Barnes cut the deficit to 34-27 when she pulled down a rebound and put it back in for a layup with 3:30 left. Michelle Epperson was next on the list of contributors. Epperson finished the night with just one bucket, but it came with 1:26 left on the clock and cut Mark Twain's deficit to 34-29. Maygan Huff joined the party next when she hit a layup with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Suddenly, the Lady Tigers were back in it, trailing 34-31.
"The girls came out and fought," Brandenburg said. "I am extremely proud of how they came out and fought down the stretch. They found a way to score when we were struggling for a while."
That's when Mark Twain's playmaker stepped back in. Grossmann, who finished the night with her second triple-double in the last eight days, cut Clark County's lead to 34-33 on a layup with 14 seconds left. But, Grossmann was fouled on the play and went to the line for her first free throw attempt of the night. After sinking the attempt, the game was tied at 34-34 with 14 seconds remaining.
But it wasn't a happy ending for the Lady Tigers. With 5 seconds left in the game, Clark County's Kaylee Roberts was fouled. Roberts hit her first free throw attempt and missed the second to give the Lady Indians a 35-34 lead.
Mark Twain got the ball back off the rebound, but never got off an opportunity to shoot before time expired.
"We did a great job down the stretch," Brandenburg said. "We executed what we needed to do. There at the end of the game, we might have been able to call time out. I thought we had a good look, but it is a game of seconds and that's how it goes."
The comeback in itself was amazing. Mark Twain trailed 7-0 midway through the opening quarter. The Lady Tigers battled back and closed out the first quarter on a 8-2 run, but still trailed 9-8 heading into the second quarter. Kayla Palmer gave Mark Twain its only lead of the game when she hit a layup with 5:15 left in the first quarter to put Mark Twain up 10-9.
"That just shows the resilence of these girls," Brandenburg said. "These girls work hard and they get after it. I have always told them that I appreciate that there is no quit no matter what."
However, Clark County closed out the first half on a 8-1 run and Mark Twain trailed 17-11 at the intermission.
The two teams battled in the third quarter, but it was Clark County who came out on top. The Lady Indians outscored the Lady Tigers 15-10 to take a 32-21 lead into the game's final eight minutes of play.
For the night, Grossmann led all scorers with a 17 points as well as recording game-highs in blocked shots with 10 and rebounds with 14.
"Mackenzie (Grossmann) played great," Brandenburg said. "She is just continuing the high level of play that we need. She continues to improve as well and that is elevating the level of the rest of our team. Defensively she has been great, blocking shots and getting rebounds and that really gets the team going."
Kyley Barnes finished the night with the second highest point total of the game (9 points) and also pulled down 7 rebounds for the Lady Tigers.
"We have a lot of girls who are capable of doing a lot of good things on any given night," Brandenburg said. "Kayla Palmer has shown she can put up big numbers. Kyley Barnes showed tonight that she is just as capable doing it. ... She has been on the boards as well, working hard and getting buckets here and there. She was due for a night to break out."
Mark Twain falls to 2-11 and will play Van-Far Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the consolation bracket of Palmyra's 70th Annual Tony Lenzini Basketball Tournament.
"We are looking forward to the rest of this tournament," Brandenburg said. "We feel like we have a good opportunity to get some wins in this tournament."