Jada Summers nails end-of-game bucket to lead Monroe City's Lady Panthers to a dramatic win in the District semifinals.
Down to Highland, 57-56, with 19 seconds left in the semifinal of the Class III District 13 game on Wednesday night at Centralia, Monroe City took its final timeout in a battle of the No. 2-seeded Lady Panthers and the No. 3-seeded Lady Cougars.
Monroe City Coach Cody Leonard gathered his team in a semicircle and outlined a simple play.
“I told Hallie (Dyer) to run the clock down to about 10 seconds, and then run the play we had been running most of the night - get it to Jada,” Leonard said. “I looked at Jada and told her to win the game.”
It was a familiar role for Summers, the senior who last week signed to play next school year for Culver-Stockton College.
Dyer ran the play to perfection, passing the ball to Summers with precisely 10 seconds on the clock. Summers dribbled once left, then right and then drove to the left side of the basket and with three defenders hanging on her, she calmly hit nothing but net to give the Lady Panthers a 58-57 lead with 3.7 seconds left in the game.
The Monroe City bench and crowd erupted. Highland Coach Meleia Niemann took a last timeout, then when she saw the defense Monroe City was setting, she took her final timeout.
As Highland was inbounding the ball, the old coach came out in Monroe City’s superintendent, Dr. Tracy Bottoms.
“Don’t let her get behind you,” he yelled several times.
The Monroe City team listened. Highland got the ball to midcourt as the buzzer sounded. The Monroe City bench raced to hug Summers. The crowd went wild. Bottoms appeared to jump up and down. An emotional Leonard bent over to catch his breath.
“I am exhausted,” said Leonard after the game. “It was a lot of fun. They (Highland) are a great team. Our girls followed the game plan very well.”
After the game, in a hallway outside the gymnasium, Summer was being congratulated for the win. She admitted that despite how calmly she made the winning basket, there were some butterflies in her stomach.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I have been in games like this where I have to make the big play,” she said in a soft voice. “We knew we had to go for the big play and even if we did not get it, we tried. It was very intense. We were all a bit scared, but coach said this is what we are going to do.”
After she got the ball from Dyer, Summers was laser-focused on the last basket.
“I wasn’t trying to force anything. I turned around at the basket, looked up and I went for it,” she said. “It was very a physical game. They have such amazing girls on their team.”
Highland came out with a hot hand, scoring five points in the first 30 seconds of the game, getting Monroe City off balance, falling behind until late in the quarter, getting down as far as 9-4 when a scoring surge led by Summers and Dyer helped Monroe City take its first lead of the game, 14-12, with 1:07 left in the first quarter. The quarter ended at 16-16, while Monroe City took a 28-26 lead into halftime.
Highland came out steaming in the third quarter, scoring eight points before Monroe City got on the boards. Monroe City came back, leading 40-39 at the end of the third quarter, setting up a wildly intensive finish.
In the fourth quarter, Highland went toe-to-toe with some torrid three-point shots, nailing four of the 11 three-pointers the lady Cougars posted on the evening. Highland’s Addy Johnson posted 12 points at critical moments for Highland, all from three-point range.
Summers had a double-double night with a game-leading 22 points and 12 rebounds. Dyer posted 15 points and had three of the Monroe City seven steals.
Afterward, Niemann, Highland’s coach, said her team has been underestimated this season.
“We are a good team. I wish people would respect us,” she said. “I was really upset to be ranked third in the District. I think our girls played very well tonight… People don’t realize the adversity we have dealt with in Highland. We had two practices since Feb. 1…We played nine games in that time and went 7-2. Monroe City just took advantage of some of our turnovers…As good as Jada is, I thought Hallie Dyer made the difference for them tonight.”
Monroe City (19-7) squares off with archrival Palmyra (20-5) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for the District championship.