West Springfield sophomore Shelby Haynes made the long walk to the free throw line after an over-the-back call with seven seconds remaining in Friday’s game againstT.C. Williams and her team trailing by one.
But before Haynes stepped to the charity stripe, fellow sophomore Jasmine Taylor offered her a few words of encouragement.
If Haynes missed, Taylor told her, she would grab the rebound to give the Spartans another opportunity for a game-winning shot.
While the words eased the pressure on Haynes, they proved unnecessary, as she knocked down both shots to life West Springfield to a 54-53 win on its home floor.
Rebounding was a key all night for the Spartans, however, as they earned a 34-24 advantage over their Patriot District rivals.
“Keeping them off the boards was the game plan,” Spartans Coach Bill Gibson said. “They’re a good rebounding team so you have to keep them off. They will put it up and go get it.”
Haynes had never scored in double figures for the Spartans, but with senior standout Amy Berglund facing double teams and a Titans defense that fronted her well, Haynes raised her game. She posted a game-high 19 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
She also shot 9 of 10 from the foul line including the two free throws that put the Titans (2-2) away for good. The Spartans (5-0) made the most of their frequent trips to the line, shooting 78 percent (21 for 27). The Titans managed to convert just 35 percent of their attempts, on 5 of 14 shooting.
“Shelby was great tonight she really stepped up,” said Berglund, who scored 11 points. “We have a lot of threats and a lot of great people. Our younger players are really maturing and stepping up at this point.”
West Springfield held a 27-21 at the half, but T.C. Williams outscored the Spartans 20-11 in the third quarter to grab a three-point lead after three.
The Titans lead would swell to seven with 4:49 remaining in the fourth and Gibson decided he’d seen enough.
After a timeout the Spartans tied the game at 49 on a Taylor three-pointer with just less than three minutes remaining. West Springfield’s clutch free throw shooting down the stretch took care of the rest.
“We just have to keep it up, keep practicing hard and keep our heads in it,” Haynes said. “We can’t let this get to our head, we have to just keep playing.”