A cynic would have called Saturday afternoon’s Aberdeen-Elma girls basketball game the “Injury Game” in honor of the missing key players both teams have on their rosters.
Elma fans, however, will call it a dramatic second-half comeback and overtime triumph over the Bobcats instead.
Host Aberdeen rolled to a 16-point halftime lead, led by as many as 20 and held the same 16-point lead midway through the third period. Visiting Elma found its offensive groove, nailing inside baskets and playing shutdown defense to erase that deficit and force overtime before a 72-66 non-league victory at Sam Benn Gym.
Elma’s Miranda McDonald led all scorers with 25 points, including back-to-back 3-point baskets in overtime to give the Eagles the permanent lead. Rachael Schermer led Aberdeen with 20 points, 10 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
Aberdeen (8-7) was without guard Alexxi Timmons, who is out for the season with a cast on her right ankle, and just got back guard/post Ericka Manwell after a knee injury. Elma (14-3) walked onto the court without its two main offensive scoring threats — guard Brooke Goldsmith and forward Megan Finger, both out indefinitely with contusions suffered earlier in the week.
“We were flat, we were complacent, we were scared with two of our team leaders sitting on the bench and we weren’t playing the defense we play,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said. “I asked them, ‘do they run the offense for you; no. Do they run the defense for you; no. Do they talk on defense for you; no.’ They came out and answered and I couldn’t be more proud as a coach for the heart and character they showed today.”
“Elma, give credit to Lisa and her players, they never gave up and they played hard,” AHS head coach Aaron Roiko said. “They had more intensity and more desire in the second half. It seemed like in the fourth quarter, every deep shot went in for them. It was our lack of defensive knowledge and where shooters are and lack of rebounding. In defense and rebounding, that is where we lost this game.”
The first half was all Aberdeen. The Bobcat offense cruised with inside baskets, perimeter shooting and open looks against the Eagles. Defensively, Aberdeen held Elma to only free throws before the Eagles surged late in a 19-9 quarter and a 39-23 halftime lead for the Bobcats.
Elma’s Ashlyn Malmstrom and Kayla Pacheco each hit deep 3-point shots to open the third quarter, but Schermer’s trey to answer and free throws from the masked Kiana Dixon (broken nose) and Mo Donovan kept the 16-point lead, 45-29, with 3:57 left in the frame.
From there, the Eagles took flight to catch up. The Bobcats went scoreless to end the quarter and an 8-0 Eagle run paced by a Pacheco trey produced a 45-37 AHS lead after three. The Elma defense forced bad shots and turnovers from Aberdeen, setting the tone for the fourth quarter.
Manwell snapped the dry spell for a bit with a scoop layup early in the fourth, at 47-38. The scoreboard stayed frozen for Aberdeen until Donovan hit a free throw with 4:17 left in the contest.
Between those AHS scores, Elma hit 12 straight points — offensive-rebound putbacks by Izzy Cristelli and Ashley Cooper, drives to the basket by McDonald and deep jumpers by McDonald and Cristelli. Cristelli’s deep jumper with 5:23 left gave Elma a 48-47 lead and Cooper’s putback added it to a 50-47 lead.
Donovan’s free throw snapped the run, but McDonald’s inside basket answered it for Elma’s biggest lead in regulation — 52-48 with 4:05 left. Schermer hit two consecutive inside jumpers to erase the deficit at 52-52 and Fisher got her first field goal of the second half in transition off a Donovan steal for a 54-52 lead with 2:54 remaining.
The teams traded free throws, McDonald hit a trey late and Cristelli hit one free throw for a 58-58 tie with 20.5 seconds left. Aberdeen called timeout at 10.4 seconds left to set up a final play, but never got a last-chance shot off.
In overtime, traded baskets gave the Eagles a 62-60 left early. Schermer, with the shot clock nearly extinct, hit a hook 3-point basket for a 63-62 AHS lead with 2:34 remaining.
McDonald then stepped up and delivered the biggest shots of the day — back-to-back 3-point baskets from deep beyond the arc— to give Elma a 68-63 lead with 1:53 left. The Bobcats never got closer.
Cristelli finished with a double-double — 11 points and 10 rebounds — to aid Elma’s efforts. McDonald and Smythe each pulled down nine rebounds and Smythe swiped four steals.
Coach Johnson commended guard Smythe for her defensive work on Fisher, who was limited to just one field goal in the second half, on an injured ankle.
Elma 14 9 14 21 14 — 72 Abe 20 19 6 13 8 — 66
Elma (72) — Farrar, Wollen 5, Malmstrom 5, McDonald 25, Cristelli 11, Smythe 11, Pacheco 8, Cooper 7. FG — 23-64 (.359). FT — 18-39.
Aberdeen (66) — Schermer 20, Fisher 11, Laird, Dixon 6, Walsh 8, Roiko, Manwell 4, Blackburn 4, Utto-Galarneau, Donovan 13. FG — 23-50. (.460). FT — 15-20.