EUCLID — Madison Luthy thought she was robbed of a game-tying assist to Sarah McKee when the referee’s whistle blew with 45.1 seconds left in regulation. Some fans believed the senior had committed a double-dribble violation while crossing the timeline. Many others were confused.
The timing was dramatic, to say the least.
After a short conference near center court, the referees assessed a technical foul to Euclid center Alexis Reese. The Medina girls basketball team then calmly tied the game twice and played brilliantly in overtime Saturday, stealing a 70-63 Greater Cleveland Conference victory after the Panthers unlocked the door, took a nap and allowed Medina to take what it wanted.
Team Better Together did it again, moving to 17-0, 11-0 after surviving a holy-cow 50 points and 42 rebounds from Euclid stars Constance Chaplin (29, 22) and Reese (21, 20).
“We’re very excited and very proud of each other,” power forward-turned-center McKee said. “We were able to keep our composure and pull out the win. We really believed in each other and stayed with it. We never gave up.”
Medina was ripe for an upset. The Bees, who hadn’t played in 10 days, committed a season-high 28 fouls, bricked a ton of inside shots, were crushed on the glass 50-34 — Chaplin and Reese grabbed 21 offensive rebounds — and had to use the 6-foot-2 McKee (career-high 25 points, 7 rebounds) at center for long stretches while starter Lindsey Linard (7 points, 7 rebounds) and backup Rowan McDonald battled foul trouble.
Then there was trying to defend Chaplin, a high school girls version of NBA superstar guard Russell Westbrook. The Bees tried matchup 2-3 zone, box-and-one and even triangle-and-two with varied success, as the Eastern Michigan recruit and projected GCC Player of the Year took a ton of double-teamed, left-handed shots while finishing 9-for-32 (.281) from the floor.
But Medina got a brilliant offensive performance from McKee, who was a matchup nightmare for the forward-less Panthers (13-6, 7-4), 14 points and seven rebounds from Luthy, 12 and seven from Elizabeth Stuart and a gritty six-assist effort from point guard Alexa Nau, who played all 36 minutes against an opponent that pressed after scores.
“We knew we had to shut down their two best players, Reese and (Chaplin), but we had a whole team,” said Luthy, who face-guarded Chaplin. “We were fine, but the first three quarters — I don’t know, they were OK.
“(Chaplin) is a fantastic player. She’s so good. She drives and passes, her ball-handling skills are awesome. It was really hard defending her and stopping her, but she’s just a fantastic player.”
Medina was in deep trouble when it trailed 56-51 with 1:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. Luthy kept the Bees afloat with a putback, Chaplin went for a quick, go-for-the-dagger layup that missed and Reese was called for her fourth foul while battling for rebounding position with Linard.
Linard split a one-and-one to make it 56-54 with 56.3 seconds to go. Chaplin again drove left shortly after crossing center court and again came up empty, with Medina again grabbing a clutch rebound. The whistle then blew as Luthy pushed the floor in an effort to get a scoring opportunity.
Reese fouled out on the technical, and McKee made both free throws to tie the game at 56. The Bees failed to score on the ensuing inbounds play, and Chaplin (free throws) and McKee (driving layup) traded scores 14 seconds apart. The Panthers’ last gasp in regulation came on an off-balance 3-pointer by Destinee White — Chaplin was double-teamed — that was off the mark at the buzzer.
OT felt like a formality with two-way force Reese on the bench, as Linard, Luthy and Stuart scored during a 7-0 run and McKee iced the game on two free throws with 15.4 seconds to go.
“I was really mad (when the technical was called) because I passed the ball to (McKee), and Sarah made the layup and we were tied,” a still-wound-up Luthy said. “I was like, ‘What did they call it for?’ Then I saw they called the technical and I saw Sarah was going up for the free throws and I was like, ‘Oh, Sarah’s got this. She can make those free throws.’ I was content and had trust in her.
“I was very stressed out at the end of that when we were all tied up and had to go into overtime, but we had the momentum because Reese was out and we knew we could get into the post and score.”
Medina will continue its march Tuesday afternoon with a GCC game against seventh-place Elyria (4-13, 1-10) at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bees then can clinch a title share Feb. 6 at archrival Brunswick (10-8, 6-5) before a highly anticipated rematch with defending champion Solon (12-5, 10-1) Feb. 9 at home.
The Bees were rightfully giddy walking out of the locker room at Euclid. They knew this one was clutch.
“I’m very proud of the team for their poise and their togetherness and experience to be able to come back in a little way at the end (of regulation) and shift momentum,” coach Karen Kase said. “I’m excited, I’m ecstatic, I’m happy for the girls and, again, proud of how they handled this 10-day layoff.”
Medina 70, Euclid 63 (OT)
MEDINA 11 16 14 17 12 — 70
EUCLID 13 11 16 18 5 — 63
Medina — Madison Luthy 5-2-14, Sarah McKee 8-8-25, Lindsey Linard 3-1-7, Abby McMullen 0-0-0, Alexa Nau 1-1-3, Mia Buzzelli 0-0-0, Rowan McDonald 2-0-4, Katie Neate 1-0-3, Elizabeth Stuart 3-4-12, Erin Wojciak 0-2-2, Hailey Seguin 0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-18-70.
Euclid — Kaylonna Robinson 0-2-2, Myah Goodman 1-0-3, Alexis Reese 8-5-21, Constance Chaplin 9-11-29, Destinee White 1-1-3, Mariah Childress 2-0-5, Taylor Curtain 0-0-0, Jasmine Thomas 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-19-63.
3-point goals — Stuart 2, Luthy 2, McKee, Neate, Goodman, Childress. Rebounds — Medina 34 (McKee, Luthy, Stuart 7), Euclid 50 (Chaplin 22, Reese 20). Assists — Medina 16 (Nau 6), Euclid 8 (Chaplin 5). Records — Medina (17-0, 11-0), Euclid (13-6, 7-4). Junior varsity — Medina 46, Euclid 35.