With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Big Spring girls basketball’s Laney Noreika stepped to the foul line to shoot a pair of foul shots.
Teammate and fellow senior Laila Moore patted Noreika on the back before her two attempts and said, “You can do this.”
Thirteen seconds later, with Moore at the foul line, in a game knotted at 42, Noreika walked up to Moore and said, “You can do this.”
Moore drained the foul shot, nudging the Bulldogs to a 43-42 triumph over visiting Greencastle-Antrim. The Bulldogs (10-1, 6-0 Colonial Division) weathered runs of 9-1, 8-0 and 5-0 from their division foe to extend their winning streak to nine games.
“I know how nerve-wracking it is. So, I was just trying to calm her down even though I know she probably wasn’t gonna listen,” Noreika said with a laugh. “It’s very nerve-wracking when you’re the only one up there with two seconds to go in the game. It’s a lot of pressure, but I knew she could do it. She’s one of our better free throw shooters.”
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“I’m still kind of shaking,” Moore said. “It was exciting. I’m glad I could make the one shot. We just played so hard. Greencastle is a really good team, very respectful. They play so hard. And we were struggling to match up against them because they’re just really offense heavy. So, I’m glad we got the win because I think that’s what we needed.”
The Bulldogs mounted a fourth-quarter comeback after trailing seven points to open the final frame. Greencastle, hot on the heels of the Bulldogs in the Colonial Division standings, dipped to 9-2 (6-1 Colonial) with the loss.
“We watched some film and saw some things that we could execute against,” Big Spring head coach Randy Jones said, “and we knew they were gonna sit on Laney. And they did. But as I told these kids, we have too many weapons on the perimeter to allow that to happen. So, we have to be ready to counter if they want to sit on Laney, and I think we did a great job at sharing the basketball later in the game and getting some shots when we needed it.”
Trading 3-pointers to open the game, with Big Spring leading 15-13 early, both teams dug in and adjusted in the second quarter. Greencastle keyed on wiping away the outside shot and threw double teams at Noreika down low. On the other hand, Big Spring began switching its defensive sets, displaying a mixed bag of man-to-man and its signature 1-3-1 zone.
Offensively, the Blue Devils used the Big Spring mixture to its advantage and pieced together a 5-0 run after falling into a five-point hole off an early second quarter sister-to-sister connection between Maylei and Laney Noreika.
G-A received contributions from four players in the second, which helped the Blue Devils build a 21-19 halftime lead.
“Greencastle does a great job,” Jones said, “lots of screens, back screens, ball screens, you name it. They do a nice job in their offense, and that is tough to defend, and our kids stepped up and wore their hard hats to defend that, for sure.”
Out of intermission, the Blue Devils kept the pedal down, scoring the first basket on a wing 3-pointer. Their defense held strong, too, continuing to force the Bulldogs into struggling offensive sequences.
G-A sprinted to an 8-0 run to close out the third quarter and limited the Bulldogs to single-digit points for the second straight frame. The one-two punch between offense and defense ballooned the advantage to seven, 34-27.
The fourth quarter is where the Bulldogs flipped the switch on both sides of the ball. The offense ramped up, as Laney Noreika coaxed in a duo of layups and went 2-for-4 at the foul line. Emilee Sullivan found the hot hand from deep, connecting on two wing treys. Her second, with 2:55 left, provided Big Spring the outright lead at 37-35.
Bartering baskets the rest of the way through, it came down to Moore with two ticks showing on the scoreboard.
She drained the free-throw to clinch the 43-42 win.
“It’s great to see her break through,” Jones said of Moore. “She had a rough start to the season. She missed her first three or four or five games.”
“We do a lot of pressure foul shots in practice,” Moore said, “so coach prepared me. But it was good, and I’m glad we got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Sullivan led the Bulldogs with 13 points. Laney Noreika bucketed 12 more for the Bulldogs, and Diana Kepner tacked on eight. Greencastle’s Haley Noblit matched Sullivan’s 13 points while Mia Libby added nine to steer the Blue Devils.
Big Spring entered Tuesday night’s brawl having limited Camp Hill and West Perry to a combined 33 points in its two prior matchups. Greencastle played a touch under its season average of 48.3 points per game Tuesday.
“I feel like it’s a step forward this season,” Laney Noreika said. “We’re definitely sharing the ball more and looking for each other in transition, and we’re willing to make that extra pass even when we don’t have to, which I think is gonna take us really far this season.”