Lady Knights three-peat as conference champs

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Fri., Feb. 22, 2013
Senior Jess Malone stretches to lay in a basket as the Lady Knights beat Avon, 59-56, in the NCCC title game on Feb. 22. Photos by Steve Smith.
Senior Jess Malone stretches to lay in a basket as the Lady Knights beat Avon, 59-56, in the NCCC title game on Feb. 22. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Ellington High School Lady Knights trailed for the first 28 minutes of the NCCC championship basketball game vs. Avon on Feb. 21, but found a way to step up their game in the final minutes to take home a third consecutive conference title.

Avon scored first and played tight defense in the first half, putting Ellington in a bind and in a deficit as large as nine points, as the Knights struggled to capitalize on possessions. The Falcons were up 29-22 as the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime.

“I think our shots just weren't falling,” said coach Lauren Beeler. “We had to get into the momentum of this game.”

After Avon got the benefit of several questionable calls in the third quarter, and appeared to be cruising to victory, Ellington strung together a nice run of rebounds and got hot shooting to close the gap to 40-38 heading into the final frame.

The thrilling fourth quarter included the first lead of the game for Ellington, with 3:17 left in the game. The lead changed hands before senior Jess Malone hit a game-tying three-point shot with almost exactly a minute left. Junior Karlee Alves – who was also named the conference tournament's Most Outstanding Player – tacked on a basket and a foul shot to nail down the 59-56 win for the Knights.

Coach Lauren Beeler said that her players are “just fighters” and didn't give up, even though they were down for much of the game.
“We just fought and fought and fought,” she said, adding that Alves and senior Brittany Lemire led that charge, but there was also a strategy switch when Beeler had her team switch to a triangle-and-two defensive scheme – something they had never used or practiced before.

“I think that really worked for us,” she said. “They all had to step up their defense. They all did their part.”

Alves said that after her coach made those adjustments, she was filled with confidence. “It wasn't working for us the first three quarters,” Alves said, “but I knew the last quarter was going to be ours. We showed heart, and we showed we wanted it more than them.”

Winning the third conference title, Beeler said, was something of a surprise for her team, which peaked late in the season. “We've been playing really well the last couple of weeks,” she said, adding that the momentum will hopefully carry them deep into the upcoming state tournament.

“Just to three-peat was awesome,” Alves said. “I'm confident with my girls. If we play like we played in the last quarter today, I'm sure we'll go really far.”

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