Free throws push MA girls into title game

MONTGOMERY — Marengo Academy (25-2) relied on an early run and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to beat Patrician Academy 45-41 in the AISA, Class A state semi-finals at Huntingdon College Wednesday morning.Marengo Academy - 6752

The Lady Longhorns watched a double-digit lead dwindle all the way to 36-34 with 3:34 to go when Gabby George knocked down a jumper to keep Patrician’s momentum alive.

Marengo Academy coach Danny Stenz opted to halt the 12-3 Lady Saint run with a timeout call.

“I just told them to calm down,” Stenz said. “We were panicking a little bit.”

Stenz told his team to overplay George to her left hand in an effort to slow down the Patrician floor general that finished with a game high 21 points.

With 2:06 to play, Marengo’s Andrea Edmonds caught a pass on the right block and kicked it back out to a wide open Chandler Stenz, who drained a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 39-34 and force a Patrician timeout.

Patrician cut the deficit to two again with 1:20 to play when Tyler Armistead knocked down a baseline drive to pull PA to 39-37.

In the game’s final minute, Marengo found itself with a trio of one-and-one free throw opportunities, as Anna Michael Crocker and Stenz combined to go six-for-six from the stripe to ice the win.

“We’re not a good free throw shooting team,” Danny Stenz said. “I think the way we shot in the last minute speaks for the girls and the type kids they are. They like the pressure moments.”

Stenz, who has coached Marengo Academy’s girls to two junior high state championships in basketball as well as two straight varsity softball championships, said he believes that wealth of experience in pressure situations has paid off for his team this season.

“Winning two junior high state titles with these same girls has helped us, plus the softball,” he said.

The Lady Longhorns opened the game on a 16-2 run before Patrician managed to win each of the next three quarters. Stenz credited the early offensive output with a new wrinkle in the team’s approach.

“We tried a lot of pick-and-rolls and kicking to the corners,” he said. “We did a good job of it, but we just didn’t put it in the basket a whole lot.”

Brooke Smyly led the Lady Longhorns with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Chandler Stenz added 11 points for MA.

Armistead added seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals for the Lady Saints in the loss.

Marengo is scheduled to play the winner of Sparta and Lakeside at 6 p.m. Thursday in the state championship game.