Mia Washington sent her team back to the floor of Mercer’s Hawkins Arena pretty quickly after the players went to the locker room at halftime Thursday of the GISA Class AAA semifinals matchup with Westfield.
The Mount de Sales head coach wanted her players to take some extra shots after they managed just 10 total points in the first half.
“They were really nervous,” Washington said. “They have never been in an environment like this.”
The Cavaliers (25-7) made their first three shots of the third quarter, but they didn’t fully settle in until the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of the final 19 points in regulation to force overtime. While the normally sure shooting Hornets struggled from the foul line, Mount de Sales made its final five free throws to earn a 47-41 win. The Cavaliers, who were making their first Final Four appearance since 2002, will play either Bulloch Academy or Tattnall Square for the GISA Class AAA championship on Saturday at Mercer. Mount de Sales’ only GISA girls championship came in 1994.
“We have 10 seniors, and we really wanted to do this for Coach Washington,” Mount de Sales senior Maggie Midkiff said. “She’s stuck with us for so many years.”
Midkiff helped ensure the Cavaliers would have a chance to play for the championship with some heady plays late in the game.
The senior, who was a national finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award, drove to the basket and made an off-balance shot with 10 seconds left to play to pull Mount de Sales within two points.
“It seems like she’s always in the right place at the right time,” Washington said.
The Hornets (24-8) threw the ball out of bounds with 6.9 seconds left, giving the Cavaliers the opportunity for one final chance. Midkiff missed her first shot but collected the rebound and put the ball back in as the buzzer sounded to force overtime.
“I’ll probably remember that for the rest of my life,” Midkiff said. “You dream of making a shot like that.”
The Cavaliers controlled overtime with the Hornets uncharacteristically struggling from the foul line.
Westfield made just 3-of-10 free throws in overtime after shooting 80 percent from the foul line on the season.
"It was a big difference in the game,” Westfield head coach Cass Cassell said. “We didn't make them at the end, but we just didn't make them all night, really. I'm not sure why. We've made them all year."
The Cavaliers started overtime with their own struggles from the line, but they made their final five to secure the win. The final one came after the Cavaliers’ Chelsea Veal squirted loose on an in-bounds play with 13 seconds left and Mount de Sales ahead by three. Veal drove to the basket and made the layup while getting fouled. She drained the free throw to give the Cavaliers the six-point margin of victory.
“She’s a post player, so I was thinking, ‘Just don’t lose the ball,’ ” Midkiff said. “She did a great job, and I just felt relief when she made the layup.”