By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
Emily Webb was cradled in coach Jon Weaver’s arms for the entire court-length walk to Warrior Run’s bench. Just a freshman, she may not have known that’s not the way heroes are typically carried off the floor.
Webb stunned a raucous home crowd Friday with a game-tying 3-pointer just before the end of regulation.
Barely a minute into overtime, she went down with a potentially severe knee injury under the Southern Columbia basket while trying to defend the Tigers in transition. If the Defenders didn’t have enough motivation before the accident, they certainly did after it.
“We had to play for her,” said senior Steph Shamburg. “We had to step it up and win it for her to keep going on.”
Warrior Run closed the extra period with a 10-3 run and staved off Southern’s tremendous all-around effort with a 45-36 win in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals.
The second-seeded Defenders had swept the teams’ season series by an average of 15.5 points. From the opening tip Friday, however, the No. 7 Tigers contested everything — dribble, pass or shot — and played each possession as though the game’s outcome hinged on it.
“We know they’re scrappy,” said Weaver. “Every time we play them it’s like that. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
The Tigers, though, transcended scrappy. They lunged for loose balls that were lost causes, punched away rebounds they wouldn’t surrender, and collected steals like Rickey Henderson.
A team that endured the sudden July death of coach Kevin Collins and lost six straight to end the regular season resembled anything but a one-and-done pushover.
“Throughout the year we were playing with a purpose, to honor Kevin, and I asked them (Friday) to play for themselves. I know Kevin would have wanted that,” said Southern coach Kim Chaundy. “All we asked for was effort. I actually got goose bumps when I saw them playing. I’m just so proud. I can’t say enough about them.”
Warrior Run (20-5), which has won 12 of its last 15 games, plays sixth-seeded Central Columbia (also a quarterfinal OT winner) in next week’s semifinals. The Tigers finished 12-11.
The action in Friday’s game at times resembled grade-school kids playing “King of the Mountain.” Southern had 20 steals (seven by Teanna Shutt) among the Defenders’ 29 turnovers, and Warrior Run pulled 40 rebounds (seven each by Shamburg and Madi Welliver; at least four from six girls).
“It was tough,” said Shamburg, who played all 36 minutes. “You had to be on your game, take care of the ball and be perfect, because it was a close game all the way through.”
Both teams managed foul trouble subbing offense for defense with Southern scoring leader Mackenzie Clark and the Defenders’ Welliver each drawing three in the first half and finishing the game with four.
Warrior Run led by three early in the fourth quarter and again in the middle, but tied the score each time. Reba Lyash’s three-point play knotted it at 28 with 3:30 to go, and she later broke a 30-all tie with a similar drive to the hoop. A Clark free throw made it 33-30 with 32 seconds left, before Chloe Eisenhuth took an offensive rebound to the floor to set up Webb’s tying shot.
Chaundy said she regretted not calling timeout with 12 seconds left to reinforce a “no threes” strategy. The Defenders, though, improvised when they couldn’t get the ball to first option Abby Fisher, skipping a pass to Webb on the left side for a dagger over Southern’s Haley Levan.
“For a freshman to step up and hit that shot — she didn’t even hesitate,” said Weaver. “She’s the reason we’re moving on.”
“It crushed me when she hit that three,” said Chaundy, “because (the Tigers) worked so hard and I wanted it so bad for them.”
Shamburg started overtime with an assist to Welliver for the lead, and later split two Tigers to make it 37-33. She finished with 16 points, matching Fisher who added four in OT.
“Steph came up huge ... Welliver owned the glass, and Abby came up big — that’s the reason we won overtime,” said Weaver. “We played better in four minutes of overtime than we did the whole game.”