Just a few seconds lingered on the clock in Memorial Gym Wednesday night and Kokomo’s girls basketball team led Taylor 45-43 after a Kat free throw.
“Emma [Good] was on the sideline, they were shooting free throws. I told her 6.4 seconds, probably got about five bounces. She kind of looked at me and shook her head all confident,” Taylor coach Tony Oliver said. “The kids think they’re going to win every game.”
Taylor’s Good motored the ball up the left sideline and knew she had to score. In a game littered with missed opportunities for both teams, one opportunity remained.
“Coach told me if she made that free throw, we needed a 3 and I told him I got him,” Good said. “I saw three seconds on the clock and I had to put it up. I wasn’t going to get open when I [saw] that, so I had to shoot it.”
The senior guard had a glimpse of clean air. Eying the bucket, she pulled up from 30 feet, halfway between the 3-point line and the half-court line on the left side, and let rip.
Good’s buzzer beater ended the game and gave Taylor a 46-45 victory, completing a Taylor fightback from eight points down in the final two minutes. The Titans exploded with excitement while the Red and Blue side was stunned.
“That was awesome,” Good said of the celebration after her winner. “Coach came over and just, he surrounded me. I didn’t know where anybody else was, I couldn’t see anything, it was just coach’s arms. Everyone cried, my dad [Ron] cried — he’s on the coaching staff. That was a cool moment with him.”
It was an electric ending to a game that started sloppy but got more tense along the way as teams started hitting big shots, missing key opportunities, and couldn’t push the other away when they got the lead.
Taylor (2-0) shook off seven first-quarter turnovers to take an 11-3 lead after the first quarter, with Kelsi Langley scoring seven points in the frame. Kokomo (1-1) roared back in the second quarter to take a 20-17 lead at the break with Chloe McClain hitting three triples that period and Aijia Elliott scoring five points. The Kats led 33-29 after three quarters with Elliott dominating inside to score eight points that frame.
That set the stage for the decisive fourth quarter. Taylor pulled within a bucket at 38-36 on a quick layup by Alexandra Collins but McClain hit a 3-point dagger with 4:30 on the clock to pump the Kat lead up to 41-36, then hit another at 2:33 for a 44-36 lead.
“I can’t believe how many times we lost Chloe,” Oliver said.
Taylor clawed back with two quick buckets from Collins to trail 44-40 with 1:13 left. Freshman Jallainah Harris hit two freebies with :31 left, and Langley hit one of three freebies with :13 left to cut the lead to 44-43.
“It was tough, Kokomo put up a good fight but we pushed through, we didn’t back down, we didn’t let it stop us,” Good said. “Alex Collins hit her free throws, which was good. She was putting up shots like crazy. She hit all her layups, she hit contested layups and her free throws. She did real good.”
With less than 90 seconds in the game Taylor had just one foul in the half, so the Titans had to quickly foul over and over to put the Kats in the bonus and on the line.
“I thought we just battled and played hard, and I thought we managed the foul situation at the end of the game,” Oliver said.
The effort paid off, Kokomo hit just 1 of 5 free throws in the final quarter, leaving the door open for Taylor to win the game.
“I think we have to make free throws,” Kokomo coach Haley Peckinpaugh said. “We have to be better. Free throws are mental toughness and we’re not mentally tough enough right now.
“We couldn’t get enough separation, we fouled too much, we were pretty lax with the ball, didn’t really take care of it. We’ve just got to be better and more mentally tough.”
It was the Titans’ third straight win in the series with the Kats. Good and Collins led Taylor with 16 points each. Collins was 6 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from the line. Langley added eight points and Harris four. Collins snagged nine rebounds, Langley seven and Katie Hogan six. Hogan added four assists.
“Jallainah Harris played great,” Oliver said. “Alex Collins just played out of her mind.”
McClain and Elliott each scored 16 points for Kokomo. Elliott took nine rebounds. Omarea Daniels and McClain took six boards each. Lilly Hicks scored nine points, and she and Daniels each had four assists.