Villains once again find a way to win
The Bishop McGuinness girls have been in tough situations before. But they always seem to pull it out.
Think Atkins or Winston-Salem Prep in the playoffs this year. Or River Mill in the state championship game last year. They just have a way of getting it done.
So, in another tough game against Riverside on Saturday, the Villains remained steady and composed and – highlighted by Alex Putman’s halfcourt buzzer-beater – again made the plays to win 61-58 and capture their ninth-straight NCHSAA 1A state championship.
“Sometimes you just have to hang on to your faith a little bit,” coach Brian Robinson said. “We’d found a way two other times to win, and both times I wasn’t sure how we did it. And when Alex took that shot, sometimes things like that happen. It was just an amazing shot, an amazing game, an amazing season, and an amazing group of girls.”
There were a couple of times in Saturday’s game that the Villains, who finished the season 29-4, could’ve been in real trouble. After leading by 13 in the second quarter and 12 midway through the third, they were tied with the Knights 43-43 early in the fourth.
Riverside (29-1) tied it 54-54 with 2:17 left and had a wide-open layup on its next possession that would’ve given it a two-point lead. Given it scored on its following possession to lead 58-56, that could’ve changed the outlook. Instead, it missed and Bishop tied it with 57.5 seconds left.
The Knights again had a chance to go up, drawing a foul with 5.2 seconds left. Fortunately again for the Villains, both free throws missed, and Robinson said the designed play the team discussed in the timeout (the same play as was called vs. Prep) was for everyone but Putman.
“He said, ‘Alex, you’re taking the ball out. I want Cameron, Tia or Tessa to get the ball,’ Putman said of the timeout before the free throws. “‘I want to drive, there’s a kick-out and there’s a layup. So, one of you’s going to shoot it, and it’s just going to go.’
“I was expecting her to make both her free throws. For her to miss that … I’m still shocked. I did it for my seniors. I’ve been with them so long – like AAU since I was little. So, it just means so much for me to get the championship with them on that last-second shot.”
So, even when things looked pretty bleak, Bishop came through when it counted, as it has done so many times.
“It is a lot of luck,” Robinson said. “But at the same time, you make your own luck by keeping the game close and being in position to make that luck happen. At lot of it speaks to the resiliency of these girls. They are so tough mentally. The fact that they don’t panic when things get down, when times are tough.
“In the timeout, they’re all encouraging each other saying, ‘We got this. We’ll make a play.’ I think that speaks more of our program – what Kat Lyons did and Megan Buckland did to steady the ship and not let panic in. They’re the rocks of our program. We might not have had a lot of rocks this year, but we had a lot of pebbles that made one big rock.”