In a flash, Soriah Gouard did the math.
“One shot, one second left. It had to go in,” the Decatur Central sophomore said of her attempted putback in the final seconds of Wednesday’s quarterfinal round of Class 4A Sectional 11 at Southport.
Gouard’s rebound slipped through the nets with one second remaining in the contest with favored Roncalli.
One second later, the happy Hawks burst onto the court, celebrating their improbable 53-52 victory.
The win elevated the Hawks, 14-8, into Friday’s semifinal round against Franklin Central, 7-16, a 53-29 winner over Perry Meridian in Wednesday’s first game. Roncalli finished 18-5.
Though Roncalli led much of the game, the Hawks battled to stay in it. After a slow start, they upped their defensive game while continually attacking the basket on offense.
The contest came down to one last shot, and the Hawks had the ball.
With time winding down, freshman Kamrah Banks launched a 3-point attempt from the left corner.
“Dang! It didn’t go in!” exclaimed Banks. But she had confidence in her teammates.
“If I miss, I know Soriah is going to get the rebound,” Banks continued.
Gouard grabbed the rebound away from two Roncalli players and immediately went up with the putback. She did not miss.
“I needed to make it, make it for my team,” she said.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, the Royals threw the ball deep, where the Hawks battled for possession as the final buzzer sounded, sending Hawks racing onto the floor.
“We wanted to step up for the seniors, play harder,” Gouard said.
Banks and the 5-9 Gouard scored 17 points each for DC, with seven Hawks scoring points: Naja Winston five, Cadence Thomas, Marier Fuller and Aliseonna Garnett four each and Nevaeh Hearn two.
After trailing 16-7 after one quarter, the Hawks outscored the Royals 46-36 the rest of the way.
“We started slowly,” noted first-year coach Nic Carothers. “We talked about it at halftime: How you respond is how you’re going to be, not just as a basketball player, but as a person.
“We’ve got seniors and juniors who never played this system, never had this culture before.
“They were hungry for this game (Roncalli eliminated the Hawks 44-34 in last year’s sectional). They all played well. She (Gouard) has led us in rebounds all year.”
Banks concurred, saying, “At the half, we talked about how we needed to pick it up. We came out stronger in the second half.”
They did indeed after trailing 25-19 at intermission.
Their sticky man-to-man defense made life difficult for the Royals, who managed to stay ahead on 3-point baskets by Taylor Turk and Sydney Horton.
But the Hawks countered with drives to the basket, with an occasional outside shot.
Still, it was a struggle.
DC trimmed the deficit to 42-39 after three quarters, and the score remained there until Horton kept her team ahead, first by driving the lane for a 44-39 lead with 4:59 remaining, then stealing a DC fast-break pass and going the other way for a layup and a 46-41 lead with 3:45 to go.
Thomas made one of two free throws with 3:11 left. When the Royals missed a shot, Gouard rebounded, drew a foul, and with DC in the double bonus, sank two free throws to trim the deficit to 46-44 with three minutes showing.
In a scramble for a loose ball under the Roncalli basket, Fuller drew a foul and made both free throws to tie the score with 2:49 to go.
Thompson hit a short shot to put the Royals up by two, but Thomas hit a 3 from the left corner, putting the Hawks ahead 49-48 with 2:01 left. After two missed Roncalli free throws, Banks drove the lane, putting DC atop 51-49 with 1:09 remaining.
The teams exchanged turnovers before Horton hit a 3 from the left corner, putting the Royals ahead 52-51 with 16.5 showing.
Thomas missed a shot from the left corner with 10.3 to play, and in the ensuing scramble, the officials ruled a jump ball, with the possession arrow pointing to DC.
Carothers called timeout with 8.4 to go.
The play was to get the ball to an open Banks in the left corner. She missed the shot, but Gouard was there for the putback.
The game was played on National Girls and Women in Sports Day. In commemoration, Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever and mascot Freddie Fever attended the game.
“I told them to enjoy the win,” said Carothers, “but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”