By Will Willems
Danville — It was a game that Western Boone and Tri-West fans will be talking about for a long time.
Fortunately for the Stars, the memories will be happy ones. The Western Boone girls basketball team out-lasted Tri-West 66-62 in triple overtime in the regional semifinals Saturday afternoon, moving the Stars onto the regional championship tonight.
"That was a battle of attrition," Western Boone head coach Rich Schelsky said. "The name of the game at this point of the year is survive and advance. I think some of the things I thought going into the game in terms of us being familiar with them and knowing them - I think those backfired on us today. They knew us very well, they knew how to play us and did a great job; you have to tip your cap to their kids and (coach) Brad (Acton) because they were ready to play and nobody deserved to lose this game. Hopefully we will be more calm and settled down in the night game."
Western Boone led by five early in the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 Tri-West run gave the Bruins the 37-34 lead with 6:22 remaining in the game.
The Stars bounced back to go on a 9-1 run of their own, taking a 43-38 lead on a 3-pointer by Julia Hole with 3:02 remaining, but didn't score the rest of regulation. Tri-West tied the game on a free throw by Madison Sprecher with 1:14 left and Emily Harrison's jumper was no good with four seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
Western Boone struck first in the first overtime, taking a 47-43 lead on two free throws apiece from Harrison and Kaitlin Miller in the opening minute of overtime, but again the Stars went cold.
Tri-West's Karen Jones made four-straight free throws, the last two coming with 2:14 remaining in overtime, to tie the game and neither team scored the rest of the way. This time it was Tri-West who had a final shot at the win, but Jones' off-balance runner was no good.
In the second overtime, it was Tri-West's turn to jump out in front. Two free throws by Marisa Meyer and a 3-pointer by Sprecher gave the Bruins a 52-47 lead with 3:15 left in double overtime.
After each team split a pair of free throws, the Stars came back to tie the game, getting a basket from Harrison and a three-point play from BayLee Mitchell to knot the score at 53 with 2:33 left.
Harrison put the Stars up 56-55 with 19.1 seconds left by spliting a pair of free throws, but Tri-West was fouled with 7.8 seconds left. They split the two free throws and Mitchell's 3-pointer from the wing rolled out to send the game to triple overtime.
Schelsky said they just told the girls to keep playing hard throughout the overtime, even though they weren't playing their best game.
Western Boone finished 18 of 66 from the field (27.2 percent) and turned it over 25 times.
"Not to take anything away from Tri-West because they played great, but that was one of the worst games we have played in a long time," Schelsky said. "I joked with them heading into each overtime that I was glad we were going into another one because maybe then we could play four good minutes of basketball. I am not sure that we ever fully did, but that was just a great game. We would get up five, they came back. They got up, we came back. Neither team wanted to lose and that was a good, old-fashion Sagamore Conference battle."
Harrison fouled out early in the third overtime, ending the game with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Stars turned to two of their other seniors.
Nicole Chance hit two free throws with 2:53 left to give Western Boone a 58-56 lead.
After two baskets by Jones gave Tri-West a 60-58 lead with 1:45 to play, Mitchell drained a 3-pointer from the corner as she was being fouled.
She missed the free throw, but the Stars led 61-60.
Johnson gave Tri-West the lead 62-61 by hitting two free throws with 1:20 left, but Mitchell struck again 16 seconds later, getting loose on the backside for a lay-up to give the Stars the lead.
"We know that eventually BayLee is going to hit a big shot," Schelsky said. "I actually thought the one at the end of the second overtime was going in. She hit a big shot, she made some big plays and that is what you expect seniors to do. She hit shots that she needed to."
After getting a defensive stop, the Stars were able to run the clock down some before Chance was fouled with 14.9 seconds left. She made both shots to give the Stars a 65-62 lead and the Bruins never got a good shot for the tie, settling for an off-balance 3 by Jones in the waning seconds.
Mitchell finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Chance had 10 points and seven rebounds. Kaitlin Miller had 12 points and 5 rebounds, while Rachel Ramey had nine rebounds.
The Stars will be back at it in a few hours, as they play Bishop Chatard at 8 p.m. at Danville.
Chatard defeated Owen Valley 83-48 in the other semifinal game.
"We are just going to get the kids home and rested," Schelsky said. "We came into this week expecting to play for a championship tonight and that is where we are at. We will talk Chatard when we get back and I think getting a game under our belts will help us tremendously. I think we will settle down, the nerves will calm down and the big thing is rest. That was a marathon game, Chatard had an easier time, but no excuses because at this point of the tournament you have to play with adreline and that is what we will do tonight. "