Oak Harbor coach Tom Kontak said it best.
"What a shot. What a shot," he said. "It was dead nets, right out of her hand."
With 2.4 seconds remaining in Saturday's Division III district championship game, Oak Harbor and Bucyrus Wynford were tied 37-37. Wynford had one inbounds play to keep the game from going into overtime. Senior Brenna Quinn heaved the ball across halfcourt for the Royals — Oak Harbor defenders got their hands on it, but it popped out to senior Megan Harrer, who sunk the long range buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send Wynford to the regional semifinals with the 40-37 victory over Oak Harbor (20-5).
The Royals (19-6) move on to face Columbus Africentric (22-3), which defeated Baltimore Liberty Union (80-32) earlier in the day.
"I'm proud of the kids — and as always this time of the year, you're just disappointed that you're not going to have practice tomorrow and spend time with the kids," Kontak said. "There really are no words that can describe how you feel. I would doubt there was one person in this place that anywhere in the third quarter thought that the Oak Harbor Rockets would've had the lead inside of ten seconds.
"So I think it's the resiliency of the girls and then I think after that you just say, what a great job Wynford did and wish them the best and tip your cap to coach Amy (Taylor-Sheldon) and her staff," he added. "They were very well prepared as they always are. We know their history. We know that they've been to this game 10 of the last 14 years."
The Rockets led throughout the entire low-scoring first half, despite losing one of their leading scorers in freshman Emma Barney three minutes into the game.
With Oak Harbor up 5-0 off an Andrea Cecil layup and an Athena Eli 3-pointer, Barney came up with a steal and went to make it 7-0 with a layup, but made contact with a Wynford player and went down. She left the game and the court — and didn't return to the bench until the second half, with her right knee wrapped up with ice.
"She's hurt pretty bad," Kontak said. "Emma going down, what — third possession of the game or whatnot? Monster. Let's be honest, that's huge. That's an all-district kid, and we just got to get her back to healthy now. First and foremost our hearts are with her getting back to getting healthy and hopefully having another opportunity a year from now."
The Rockets took a 13-11 lead into halftime, but Wynford took over after the break, led by Harrer and Quinn, who scored all 14 of the Royals third-quarter points.
Harrer put up a 3-pointer 40 seconds into the half to give the Royals their first lead of the game. Then Quinn connected on three of four free throws to increase the lead to 17-13. Cecil came up with a perfect effort at the charity stripe to pull within two, but that was as close as the Rockets got during the third.
Harrer put up another 3-pointer to go up 20-15 with 5:32 to go. Eli made her second of two at the free throw line to cut it to four points with 4:13 to go, but the Royals got sent to the line on the next play. Alyssa Harrer missed both, but a technical awarded to the Oak Harbor bench sent Megan Harrer to the line. The second Harrer made her second of two, then the Royals found Quinn under the basket to take their biggest lead of the night with a 23-16 lead with 3:42 to go in the quarter.
"We got out of our rhythm a little bit in periods during the game — it felt a lot like Thursday's game really — but I think if we're any program at all, we're not defined by one basketball game — win or lose — and that we'll learn from this," Kontak said. "I told them, I guess some people might say 'let's forget about this' right away. I say just the opposite. Let's never forget this. It'll make us work hard."
The Rockets trailed 25-22 after the third quarter, and the teams traded baskets to start the fourth before Cecil made both of a one and one to tie things up 33-33 with 2:53 to play.
Wynford took back the lead on the next play as Ellis Richmond made the second of two from the line, but then Cecil went back to the line with the Rockets in the double bonus and made both to give Oak Harbor its first lead of the second half, 35-34 with 2:21 to go.
With 1:55 to go, Cecil fouled out of the game and Quinn went to the line for the Royals. The senior knocked down her second to tie things back up 35-35, but Oak Harbor's Allie Kuhn got sent to the line less than 20 seconds later and made her first of two to go up 36-35.
Cecil also fouled out in Thursday's game against Bucyrus.
"You got to have luck, you got to stay out of foul trouble — let's be honest, we played two basketball games against two really good teams, and I'm going to say it the correct way — we put ourselves in some foul situations," Kontak said. "We got to learn to move our feet a little bit more. You can't question the heart and the competitiveness of the girls, the coaching staff and the whole deal."
Eli went to the line with 22.8 to go and made her first of two to put the Rockets up 37-35, but the Royals found Quinn under the basket with 9.1 left to tie things up 37-37. And then it was Harrer's buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 2.4 to go that put the game away.
"When we run our zone, where we're going to guard the perimeter, then you're susceptible to underneath and rebounding and we get that," Kontak said. "But shoot, we're one up with under 20 seconds to go after all that. I think we did play to win, I don't think we were hesitant in any of our opportunities and just sort of tip your cap to the Wynford group."
Cecil, a 6-foot sophomore, led the Rockets with 17 points, while Eli, also a sophomore, added 12.
"We're young, but you know what, I don't think anybody cares," Kontak said. "Everybody could make an argument, they're young or they're hurt… we just want to take on the philosophy, let's go play … I think the competitiveness is the (key). I like the fact that you had two teams that were battling for the logo on the front of their jersey. To me that's the high school experience that I want to be a part of. And I thought both programs did that. We hope that Wynford has a great game come Wednesday."
Quinn led the Royals with 22, while Harrer added 12.