PERU — The LaMoille/Ohio Lady Lions persevered through adversity against the Princeton Tigresses as they overcame a 6-0 deficit and an injury to star guard Shiela Browning at the Lady Bruins Christmas Classic Monday afternoon.
L/O would only lead for 3:18 seconds of the game and never led by more than one point until the last 10 seconds of the game when junior guard Erin Bennett knocked down two free throws to give the Lady Lions a 29-26 victory.
L/O improved their tournament record to 1-1 while Princeton dropped to 0-2 in the White Pool.
The Lady Lions were led by senior forward Vanessa Martinez who had a game high 13 points and Browning, who added 8. Princeton was led by sophomore guard Michaela Strom with nine points followed by senior forward Zoe Mead, who added eight.
“Shiela Browning didn’t score many points today, she had eight points, but she’s so strong handling the ball, rebounding and attacking the basket, so as long as we could stay close we knew we had a chance, it’s been that way the whole year,” said LaMoille-Ohio coach Richard Gross. “Vanessa did a amazing as well, she stepped up with 13 points.”
Early on, it looked like the Tigresses’ offense would be too much for the Lady Lions as they quickly jumped out to a 6-0 lead with 4:34 to play in the first quarter
L/O steadily chipped away at the Tigresses’ lead through the rest of the first and second quarters eventually making the score 10-8 when seemingly tragedy struck for the Lady Lions.
Browning would take a shot to the face at the 4:18 mark of the second and appeared to break her nose. The Lady Lions could have given in without their driving force but they continued to play hard keeping their team in contention, cutting the Princeton lead to 16-13 at the half.
Browning returned to play the second half giving the Lady Lions the extra edge they needed to down the Tigresses. She scored the go-head basket on a fullcourt drive with 2:36 remaining when she seemingly went uncontested through the lane.
“I told Sheila a long time ago as you go, so does the rest of the team. She just takes control of the game,” said Gross. “When she came back in everyone was a little more confident. They don’t care if we are down by 25, we don’t and we won’t quit.”
Princeton coach Kevin Hieronymus never doubted Browning’s return for the second half of play.
“Shiela Browning is a gamer, I knew she would come back, it’s just the kind of competitor she is,” Hieronymus said. “She’s obviously their team leader and there was no way she wouldn’t come back the second half with a broken nose or whatever she did. I fully expected her to come back the second half.”
Princeton’s shooting turned cold as it continued to get good looks throughout the rest of the game but could only manage 10 second half points. The Tigresses finished the night shooting just 18.6 percent, making 10 of 54 attempts from the field.
“It was kind of the story of the game, shots would not fall,” Hieronymus said. “It seemed like there was a lid on the basket there for us after we got off to a great start and then shots just wouldn’t drop for us.”
Both teams will continue tournament play Friday as Princeton plays St. Bede at 11 a.m. and Fieldcrest at 5 p.m. L/O will take on Seneca at 3:30 p.m.