It was a win for the ages at the Central High School gym Monday night. Taking on Lincoln County at home, Central High School girls' basketball battled back and forth with the Lady Falcons through all four quarters.
Down 49-48 and facing the prospect of losing at CHS for the first time since February 2018, Bella Vinson turned an inbound pass from Jenna Garretson into a basket as time expired, securing a 50-49 victory for the Lady Raiders.
"It was wild," Vinson said afterward. "We definitely didn't play our best, but we found a way to win and that's really all that matters."
Monday's game also had far-reaching implications for the postseason. The win secured the Lady Raiders a spot in the regional tournament. CHS will enter as a No. 2 seed.
It didn't come easy for the team, as shooting trouble allowed Lincoln County to stay close and take the lead at various points throughout. Free throw shooting was also an issue for CHS, finishing 5-13 from the foul line.
"Just kept grinding," Coach Joe Pat Cope said. "We just found some way to pull it out there at the end."
Garretson and Abby Morgan hit the game's first shots early on to put the Lady Raiders up 3-0. Lincoln County followed not long after and a duel began to emerge through the first quarter. With the Lady Raiders struggling to hit baskets, Lincoln County jumped out for a 16-12 lead after one.
CHS began to turn the tide early in the second quarter. Starting with a three-pointer from Ellie Graham, the Lady Raiders went on an 11-0 scoring run, regaining the lead and taking a 27-22 advantage into halftime.
The girls continued to up their numbers in the third quarter, hitting 14 points. The Lady Falcons took off for 21 over the same period, just enough to put Lincoln County ahead 43-41.
A low-scoring start to the fourth quarter, Vinson put the Lady Raiders ahead 48-47 with 3:25 remaining. After the Lady Falcons regained the lead with a under a minute to play, shooting trouble for CHS allowed Lincoln County to maintain its lead till the final seconds of regulation.
A missed Lady Falcon free throw with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game gave CHS one last chance to save the game. Starting at the Lincoln County baseline, Garretson lobbed the ball down the court with Vinson on the receiving end. Vinson turned it around and scored the winning bucket to keep the Lady Raiders' home winning streak alive.
"Jenna threw a Tom Brady pass in there," Cope said. "Bella caught it, I told her with 1.9 you've got one big dribble, try to get to the paint and she did."
Vinson finished the game with 24 points. She was followed by Morgan's 10. Garretson had seven points on the night. Ellie Graham had five points, followed by Jacey Vaughn at four.