The West Hancock Eagles won 21 games this season, but that’s not something they’ll remember.
They’ll remember that last minute of regulation in Wednesday night's Class 1A regional final, where freshman Rachel Leerar made two free throws to secure a 38-35 lead. With just over 40 seconds left, Kee (Lansing) would answer to make it 38-37.
The Kee-Hawks would steal the ball from Leerar’s grasp, take it down court and shoot twice to take a 39-38 lead.
“Those are the types of things I would never have expected to have happen,” head coach Paul Sonius said. “All year long when we’ve gotten that lead we tend to just take it and go with it.”
But Leerar would drive back, only to wrapped in a quick grasp and sent to the line to tie it up 39-39.
When the Kee-Hawks took a final shot with 1.2 seconds left in regulation, the ball kissed the rim and almost went in. Senior Kelly Leerar would wipe the sweat off her forehead and breathe a sigh of relief as the shot escaped the basket.
The Eagles and the Kee-Hawks were going to overtime. And the nerves couldn’t get any stronger.
Sophomore Amanda Chizek consulted Kelly just before her first round of free throws in OT, looking for comfort. Kelly had her hands up on Chizek’s shoulders, looking her in the eyes, offering words of encouragement.
But for everything West Hancock did well on this night, it wasn't meant to be.
This wasn’t the same team that battled from a 21-18 deficit at half, making four 3-pointers to take a 30-27 lead. When Rachel added hers to the collection, she pointed to her teammate for the assist, thinking that the Eagles were on a roll. Kelly had made two and Eisenman one.
“I thought there was a lot of hesitation on the shots (Wednesday night). At Newman, we caught the ball and girls were ready to shoot,” Sonius said. “(Wednesday night) we had open shots and we hesitated and hesitation’s got to change but it’s part of being in these games, too. We haven’t been in a regional final for a long time.”
Kee closed out the victory from the line, 46-39, and the Eagles exited before the banner was unfolded.
“We can’t take the season away,” Sonius said. “This is going to be heartbreak and it’s going to be heartbreak for a while because we know we have the team that could’ve won this game. We didn’t put our best game forward.”