By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Like any good surfing competition, the Premier Athletic Conference girls basketball game between North and Geneva was decided by the last wave of the day. The Eagles caught that wave — stirred up by tiny freshman guard Lindsey Mayle with a minute to play in regulation — and rode it all the way to a 49-44 overtime victory on their home floor.
Trailing, 41-38, with a minute to play in the fourth quarter, Geneva coach Nancy Barbo gave the Eagles (5-0, 3-0) two choices for who was going to put up the shot she was hoping would knot the score.
“We needed something to drop,” Barbo said. “I’m confident in (Mayle) and Becky (Depp’s) ability to shoot. I set that up specifically. She stepped up big time. That’s a pressure shot to make.
“It was either Becky or Lindsey. It wasn’t just on (Lindsey’s) shoulders. If you asked (Lindsey), she’d want to take that last shot, too.”
Mayle ended up with the ball in her hands and calmly knocked home a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game.
“I’m pretty confident with myself when it comes to shooting,” Mayle said. “I practice a lot of hours. I was just trying to stay calm so I wouldn’t miss.
“I kind felt like I had just won the game for us.”
It may have felt that way, but there was still more than enough time left for each team to have had — and missed — an opportunity to win the game.
The Rangers (1-3, 0-2) had their chance taken away when Natalie Thomas poked a pass free and secured it for a steal with 44 seconds remaining.
On the other end, Geneva missed a shot and the rebounder was standing on the baseline as she came down with the ball.
North’s desperation shot at the buzzer missed and the Eagles were in familiar territory. They were headed to overtime in their third straight contest.
“I know when (Mayle) hit that shot, we really needed it,” Geneva senior guard Becky Depp said. “It was a really good shot.
“The team knew we had to get back on defense. We went to overtime the last two games. I knew if we held on, we’d go to overtime again. I felt confident going to overtime.”
That previous overtime experience played right into Geneva’s hands.
“The disappointment of losing the lead (was hard on the girls),” North coach Paul Force said. “They had some difficulty regaining focus.
“This is Geneva’s third overtime game already and they had the experience of having been there before. They were a lot more enthusiastic and it was hard for our girls to refocus.”
The Eagles missed four straight free throws in the first 22 seconds of the extra period before Sarah Depp hit Natalie Thomas underneath for a 43-41 Geneva advantage with 3:23 to go.
Mackenzy Schaefer came right back and connected on a 3-pointer from from the corner to give North the upper hand, 44-43, with 3:09 remaining.
Becky Depp made sure that deficit didn’t last long for the Eagles. She drove to the rack, made the layup and was fouled. She knocked down the charity toss and Geneva led once again, 46-43, with 2:44 left.
“We had talked about not capitalizing on the foul situation,” Barbo said. “We talked about trying to get to the line. We wanted to penetrate and get to the line. (Becky) saw a gap and took it.”
The Rangers missed a pair of free throws and Mayle made one of two in the double bonus at the other end. North missed another free throw and Natalie Thomas made one of her two, again in the double bonus, and Geneva held a 48-44 advantage with 42.8 seconds remaining. Mayle made one of two free throws 21 seconds later to all but seal the victory.
“In a one- or two-possession game, free throws are big,” Force said. “The lead going from two to three and three to four changes what you expect of the girls. It changes our offensive philosophy at the other end.
“That said, we gave ourselves good shot opportunities. We gave ourselves good two- and 3-point opportunities. It was a good game to grow up with. Our girls’ focus is not on growing up. They’re already a good team. We’ve just got to be an all-the-time team instead a some-of-the-time team.”
The Rangers had taken control of momentum early in the second half, using an 11-1 run to open the third quarter.
“We made a couple of adjustments coming out in the third,” Force said. “You can’t get outrebounded, 42-19, by any team and win the game.”
Steph Chlad scored the first points 50 seconds in. After Thomas’ free throw, Lynsey Englebrecht, playing with a badly injured wrist on her shooting arm, drained consecutive treys within 25 seconds of each other.
“Lynsey hit some big shots,” Force said. “There was uncertainty (before the game) whether she’d be on the floor or not. It was a big boost for them to see her out there.
“I told her big players make big shots and she did. We just weren’t able to get that one more stop, one more rebound.”
Chlad drove to the hole, scored on a layup and was fouled. She made the free throw and the Rangers led, 30-25, with 3:12 to go in the third period.
“Any coach would say you need to get a good solid possession (to stop a team’s momentum),” Barbo said. “You need to get organized and get a shot.”
Geneva then seized control. A free throw from Emily Ball and a 3-pointer from Becky Depp had the Eagles within one, 30-29, as the fourth quarter began.
Englebrecht scored to open the fourth, but Sarah Depp scored on a drive, Mayle made two free throws and Emily O’Dell tallied on a putback to put Geneva in front, 35-32, with 6:04 left in regulation.
The tide turned back in North’s direction after Lexi Balausky scored on a baseline jumper and later made a free throw to tie the game, 35-35, with 4:37 to go.
Mayle hit a triple to put the Eagles back in front, 38-35, with with 3:34 left, but Schaefer hit her own 3-pointer, Halle McKinley scored on a give and go and Balausky made a free throw to set up the final minute of action.
Mayle paced the Eagles with 13 points, Ball had 11 and Thomas and Becky Depp each added 10. Sarah Depp had 11 boards and five assists to go with three points.
Two 3-pointers from Ball in the final minute of the opening quarter had the score knotted at 11-11 after eight minutes. Ball struck again midway through the second quarter, first with a nifty spin move that she parlayed into a baseline jumper, then on a second baseline jumper 30 seconds later.
“Those were huge shots for her,” Barbo said. “Credit the girls for finding her. North was sagging in to help on Natalie and the girls were making skip passes. Emily was the one open.
“She’s done that so far this season. She’s very capable. I’m completely confident when she launches shots.”
Becky Depp’s two free throws gave Geneva a 22-16 lead with 2:40 left in the half.
Englebrecht’s 13 points led the Rangers. Balausky added 10, Schaefer had nine and Chlad had eight.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.