SPRINGFIELD — Anabel Kreydt wasn’t sure where she was supposed to be when teammate Rachel Conran stepped to the free throw line with 4.2 seconds left and Springfield clinging to a precarious one-point lead Wednesday night.
Should she set up for a possible rebound in the event of a miss or go back on defense and help prevent Mount St. Joseph from getting a potential game-winning shot off before the buzzer?
“Usually, when there’s that much time left, they tell me to get back,”Kreydt said.
Kreydt, a sophomore, didn’t want to leave anything to chance. So she asked head coach Ky McNichol for some guidance, just to be sure. McNichol told Kreydt to set up for a possible rebound.
The decision to keep Kreydt in for a rebound turned out to be a wise move. Conran missed the free throw but Kreydt tipped the ball enough that when MSJ’s Kiersten Pumilia tracked it down and tried to make a play, she stepped on the sideline to give the ball back to the top-seeded Cougars with just 1.4 showing on the clock.
Springfield was able to inbound the ball and run out the clock to preserve a 42-41 victory over the Magic in the quarterfinal round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.
“For her to think, should I get in or go back, she made a smart decision to ask and then to go after that ball,” McNichol said. “We had fouls to give so even if she fouled we would have been OK.”
Springfield had a chance to seal the victory at the foul line but missed the front end of three one-and-ones in the final 72 seconds. It was that kind of offensive night for the Cougars.
Mount St. Joseph’s held Alexa Abbonizio, the leading scorer in program history, to five points. Her only field goal came on a 3-pointer with 1:18 to play in the third quarter. That turned out to be Springfield’s last field goal of the game.
Conran and sophomore Lexie Aaron picked up the slack. Conran finished with 15 points and Aaron drilled a career-high five 3-pointers to finish with a career-best 16 points. She had three triples in the first quarter and two in the third period.
“I wasn’t thinking about it,” Aaron said. “I was just shooting and playing for my team. Once I hit my first I felt I should keep going.”
On a night when the offense struggled, defense saved the day to send Springfield (17-0) into Saturday’s semifinal round against fourth-seeded Upper Moreland, a 41-37 winner over fifth-seeded Bishop Shanahan. Tip-off for that game is 1 p.m.
Although Mount St. Joseph did shoot 47 percent from the field, Springfield limited the Magic to just six field goal attempts and three buckets in the critical fourth quarter and forced four critical turnovers in the final period.
Springfield’s defense was at its best in the final 13 seconds. The Cougars got two huge stops to preserve the victory.
With less than 10 seconds to play the Magic tried to go inside to Dartmouth-bound senior Grace Nielkelski. Springfield, though, wasn’t having any of that. The Cougars shut off the entry pass, which forced Paige Metzel to take a short jumper. Her attempt was off the mark.
In the scramble for the rebound, Mount St. Joseph’s got another chance when the ball bounced off one of the Cougars and out of bounds. But the Magic did not get off another shot.
Conran was able to force a jump ball on the ensuing in-bound pass and with the possession arrow pointed in Springfield’s favor the ball went back to the Cougars.
Conran was fouled but her free throw bounced off the rim. Kreydt, though, was there to make sure the Magic didn’t pull out a fairy-tale finish. She was able to reach up and get a hand on the ball and knock it toward the sideline. Pumilia was able to retrieve the loose ball but stepped on the sideline.
“That play was huge,” Conran said. “Just her presence is always big. Guarding Grace (Nielkelski) is not an easy job. She’s really good and Anabel did a good job. And getting that tip and somehow getting her hand on that rebound was huge. They had to go save it and they stepped out. That was a great play.
“Everyone made plays tonight. It was a great team win. We just gave it our all on those final two plays. We weren’t ready to go home yet.”