The Monroe City girls basketball team was stung by a late 3-pointer in a 45-44 loss to Clark County in the Class 3 District 8 championship.
The girls championship game of the Class 3 District 8 Tournament can be summed up in two words.
For Monroe City, just one word needs to be said.
Carissa Bevans received a pass from Abby Brown at the top of the key. The Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year dribbled two steps right and buried a 3-pointer from the wing with 14 seconds left to give top-seeded Clark County a 45-44 win on Saturday.
“Oh my gosh, I just knew I needed to shoot it,” the Lady Indian senior said. “I just prayed it would go in and it did.”
Out of timeouts, Monroe City had one last chance for the win.
But again, another Clark County senior stepped up.
Drenda Hess dove in front of a pass intended for Jada Summers in the block to create a turnover and preserve the win.
“Lost in the shuffle of this will be how great our defense played,” Clark County coach John Weaver said. “And how about Drenda Hess...I was screaming at her to get back on defense and she ends up diving on the floor to tip the ball away, not allowing them a final shot.”
Monroe City could not have scripted a better start.
Delanie Okenfuss knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as the Lady Panthers raced out to a 10-0 lead with 3:40 left in the opening frame.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Lady Panthers coach Cody Leonard said of the early start. “We wanted to throw a bunch of different looks at them to try and keep them off balance as much as we could.”
Clark County missed its first seven shots from the field until Brown knocked down a jumper from the baseline with 3:32 left in the first quarter. The shot started a 12-0 run for the Lady Indians that carried into the second.
“I thought our experience showed more during that stretch than late in the game,” Weaver said. “We could have panicked or folded, but the girls stayed calm and that shot by Abby really got us going.”
Clark County held a 16-15 lead at the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Delanie and Emilie Okenfuss gave the Lady Panthers a 23-18 lead with 5:36 left in the third.
Hess would later knock down back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to give Clark County a 26-25 lead with 3:29 left in the period.
A corner three from Emilie Okenfuss and a pair of free throws from Delanie Okenfuss gave the Lady Panthers a 32-29 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Delanie Okenfuss drove the baseline and found Hallie Dyer wide open on the opposite block for an uncontested layup and a 39-34 lead with 4:33 left in the game.
Monroe City led 42-37 with 93 seconds left.
Maggie Schutte sank a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left before Monroe City turned the ball over on the inbound pass.
Brown then tied the game with a three from the top of the key.
“Everything just started falling for them,” Leonard said.
Delanie Okenfuss gave the Lady Panthers a 44-42 lead with 27 seconds left with a pair of free throws.
Then the shot happened.
“Our kids just made big plays,” Weaver said. “It had nothing to do with coaching. I am just speechless.”
Bevans scored 14 points, while Brown added 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in the win.
Delanie Okenfuss paced the Lady Panthers with a game-high 17 points and four steals, while Summers finished with a season-low 12 points and nine rebounds.
Clark County (26-1) claimed its second straight district title.
Monroe City finished the season 24-4.
“We were right there,” Leonard said. “They just hit one big shot in the end. This was a heck of a ride, just sucks right now.”