Mechanicville point guard Aubrie Zecca accurately summed up her team’s 47-46 win Tuesday over Mekeel Christian Academy.
“If you’re only going to have the lead once, it’s better to have it at the end of the game,” said Zecca, whose shot with four seconds left gave the Lady Raiders their only lead in the first-round game of the Class C tournament.
Zecca’s winning shot capped a comeback from an 11-2 deficit after one period, and left Mechanicville celebrating at midcourt while the Lady Lions stood nearby, stunned.
“I was just thinking, ‘Please go in.’ That’s all I was thinking,” said Zecca of the first late-game winner of her varsity career.
“That was my first. I hadn’t done that before.”
The win sends 10-9 Mechanicville into a Friday quarterfinal at second-seeded Maple Hill, in the second game of a double-header.
Mekeel did everything right in the first eight minutes. Sophomore guard Macie Holmes hit a pair of three-pointers as the hosts took a 7-0 lead. Angela Tylock finally got Mechanicville on the board with 3:03 left in the period, only to see Lindsay McCarty and Emily Taplin of Mekeel score baskets before the quarter ended.
“After the first quarter, coach [Bob Murphy] told us to pick up our defense and keep our hands up,” said Zecca. “That’s what we did. “
Mechanicville, which had trouble just hanging on to the ball in the first eight minutes, scored nine of the first 13 points in the second quarter to close to within 15-11.
Mekeel used threes from Holmes and Taplin to take a 24-17 lead into the break.
Senior Allison Ford scored 16 points off the bench to help the Lady Raiders get into position to win the game. She got half of those in the third period, when Mechanicville shaved two more points from the deficit, then scored her team’s first two baskets in the fourth to cut the Mekeel lead to 39-36.
Courtney Pingelski scored baskets around a pair of free throws from Paige Hansen to make it a one-point game with three minutes left, then Holmes put her team up, 45-42, finishing off a drive.
The finals minutes saw Mechanicville foul quickly after a missed shot, a tactic that paid off when the Lady Lions made just one of their final six five throws.
“It was scary. It was definitely scary and stressful,” Zecca said.
After Alydia Zecca scored for Mechanicville, senior Lexi Holmes made the first of her two free throws to give Mekeel a 46-44 lead with 30 seconds left. Mikaela Starks made one of two for Mechanicville with 16 seconds to go, then Macie Holmes missed a pair for Mekeel three seconds later.
Zecca then raced upcourt and got off the winning shot.
“It just happened. The ball was just in my hands,” said Zecca.
“Toward the end of the game, I was thinking it was going to be all foul shots. We needed to foul to get the ball.”
“It came down to defense and free throws,” said first-year Lady Lions coach Tahara Pleasure. “I told them, you’ve got to be able to stop your man, and you’ve got to make free throws. We didn’t do that when we needed to.”
She felt bad for Macie Holmes, her standout point guard who led all scorers with 21 points.
“She’s the best player on the team, the best shooter on the team,” Pleasure said. “She’s a phenomenal free-throw shooter. It’s just a really tough spot because she’s so young.
“But she likes being there. That’s what she’s most upset about, that she had the opportunity and didn’t come through.
“But we should have found other players to step up. Other people needed to demand the ball.”
The Lady Lions lose two of their eight varsity players from what has been a transition year.
“Last year, they played a completely different style of basketball. It was defense oriented,” said Pleasure. “They didn’t know how to score. This year, we had to do both. My main focus was scoring.
“We’ve got six of the eight coming back, and hopefully, this year will have been a good learning experience for them.”
Hansen 1-2-4, Starks 1-1-4, Aub. Zecca
3-2-8, C. Pingelski 3-2-9, Al. Zecca 2-0-4, Ford 7-0-16, Tylock 1-0-2. Totals: 18-7-47.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
L. Holmes 1-4-6, Taplin 4-0-10, McCarty 2-2-6, M. Holmes 6-5-21, Pigiavento 1-1-3. Totals: 14-12-46.
Mechanicville 2 15 15 15 — 47
Mekeel Christian 11 13 13 9 — 46
Three-point goals: Starks, C.Pingelski, Ford 2, Taplin 2, M.Holmes 4.