Danbury guard Erin Lavelle knew she had the game in her hands.
Up seven with two to play, Lavelle grabbed a loose ball at the top of the key and drove the lane for an easy two.
Danbury held on in a wild finish, 53-50 over St. Mary Central Catholic.
“We looked at each other and said it’s now or never,” Lavelle said.
“If we don’t pick up the intensity we’re not going to pull through” Danbury displayed this intensity down the stretch, but so did winless SMCC.
The Panthers had every reason to give up after Lavelle’s bucket. Instead, they made the final two minutes worth the price of admission.
“I give (SMCC) a lot of credit,” Danbury head coach Joe Fetzer said. “They’re young, they’re going to get a lot better” The effort did not go unnoticed by SMCC head coach Jim Colwell. “Our girls played hard and fought until the very end” Colwell said. The late rally started with a three from the right side by SMCC senior Maggie Murphy, making it 52-46. She was far from finished.
After two missed free throws, the Panthers got an offensive rebound and sent Murphy back to the line. She hit both this time. Danbury’s Cassidy Rhodes made the score 53-48 with a free throw, but SMCC took it right down for a Dani Parish field goal. The score was 53-50, then two missed free throws gave the Panthers the ball.
“The Den” was filled with anxiety, fans rose to their feet. Kaylee Bastien threw up a three with about eight seconds left, but it hit front iron and just missed. The win brought the Lakers to 7-5 on the season, but the win carried more significance, Lavelle said.
“It showed that we can compete with the SBC teams,” Lavelle said. Danbury junior Megan Stephens had an all-around efficient game, leading her team with 15 points.
“Megan is a super hard worker,” Fetzer said. “She brings that kind of energy all the time”
The Lakers were down by double digits in the first half, and Stephens’ play was instrumental in bringing them back. “We just told our kids, keep calm and play basketball,” Fetzer said.