WOODBURY — Sam Conti sank a foul shot with two seconds left in a Berkshire League girls basketball tournament semifinal to lift No. 2 Nonnewaug to a 26-25 win over No. 3 Northwestern on Tuesday afternoon at Nonnewaug High School.
A foul-shot decision couldn’t have been more appropriate in a game full of forced shots and passes, and steals and turnovers leading to single-digit quarters on both sides with three separate ties down the final stretch.
“There was a ton of energy out there,” said Nonnewaug coach Adam Brutting. “Everybody was up for it and it showed on the defensive side, leading to that kind of offense.”
“We lost to them by 21 points (50-29) at our place, so we were worried about what might happen here,” said Northwestern coach Fred Williams. “We wanted to be competitive and I think we were. There was no giving up.”
In fact, after suffering through a 10-3 Nonnewaug first quarter, the Highlanders passed the misery right back for the next two periods, climbing to a 12-12 tie by the end of the second quarter, then almost pulling away in the third.
In a game where every basket, every lead, seemed immense, Northwestern’s Natalie Munson and Morgan Plitt (7 points) broke out of the half with widely separated baskets; Ashley Hennessey (5 points) sank a foul shot for Nonnewaug; and Highlander Emily Munson was there for a put-back, boosting Northwestern to an 18-13 lead with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
But leads are illusory in a game on this point scale. Nonnewaug’s Mallory Tomkalski (team-high 9 points) nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer and both sides were ready for their fourth-quarter drama.
Conti started it at the foul line, but sank just one of her two shots before the refs called in a substitute thanks to blood on Conti’s knee — no surprise in this game.
Fiona Gengenbach earned back the Chiefs’ lead, 19-18, with a shot from outside.
Then the deadlocks began: at 19-19 with a foul shot by Plitt; 23-23, on a drive by Highlander Natalie Brodnitzki (team-high 9 points) and 25-25 on a five-foot bank by Nonnewaug’s Tomkalski with 2:30 left.
Tuesday afternoon, that was plenty of time for more offensive frustration.
The Chiefs had the ball with 48 seconds left, couldn’t find an opening, and still had it with :13 left in the game.
With :02 on the clock, Conti drew a foul on her shot, sinking the second of two free throws for the win.
“When you hold the other team to 26 points, you’re supposed to win,” said Coach Williams.
“We only scored 26 points, but, guess what, they only scored 25,” grinned Coach Brutting.
“We’re going to work in practice on being more patient and waiting for things to open up,” said Brutting, looking forward to the tournament final Friday against Tuesday night’s Thomaston/Shepaug semifinal winner.