June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Marlee Profitt nails game-winner for Hornets vs. Blue Devils

MEDINA — Senior guard Haley Roddy and freshman forward Marlee Profitt will forever be linked in Highland girls basketball history.

Roddy deflected an inbounds pass under the basket, which Profitt grabbed and put through the hoop with 8 seconds left Thursday, giving the Hornets a stunning 43-42 victory over Brunswick in the Medina Division I District semifinals.

Highland’s Mallory Adams blocks a shot by Brunswick’s Paige Salisbury in the first quarter. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

The Blue Devils had scored five straight points — all by senior center Gabrielle Bulic in a 1-second span — to take a 42-41 lead with 21 ticks on the clock before Highland unleashed its heroics.

“I’m still in disbelief over how the game ended, but in a good way,” said Roddy, who collected six points and four steals. “I don’t even know how I got my hands on the ball, but it went right to Marlee and she scored. I’ll definitely take it.”

Roddy also stole Brunswick’s subsequent inbounds pass and ran out the clock, sending fourth-seeded Highland (17-8) to its first district final in 20 years.

The Hornets will face Suburban League champion and top seed Wadsworth on Saturday afternoon, while the second-seeded Blue Devils bowed out at 17-7.

“Coach (Bernard Bolha) gave us a speech before the game, telling us we were playing for all the girls that came before us at Highland,” said Profitt, who had eight points and eight rebounds off the bench. “We took that to heart, and it’s like he said, we made history. I’ve never been in a situation like that, and none of us will ever forget this game.”

The heart-stopping finish looked extremely unlikely 90 seconds into the third quarter when the Hornets took their largest lead at 25-13 on an Anna Rose Wiencek power layup.

Brunswick would have been down even more had junior forward Monica Wasson not buried buzzer-beating jumpers in the first and second periods, accounting for four of her team’s 11 points in the first half.

Highland sophomore center Mallory Adams (8 points, game-high 12 rebounds), senior guard Jessica Peterlin (9 points), and senior forward AnnMarie Kirchner (2 points, 6 rebounds, game-high 5 assists) also were having their way with Brunswick, which committed 26 turnovers.

The Blue Devils, however, used a 21-8 run over the next 8 minutes to go in front for the first time. Senior guard Courtney Laudato (11 points, 7 rebounds) made two free throws, then scored on a driving three-point play to give Brunswick a 34-33 advantage with 5:53 left in the fourth.

“We dug ourselves a deep hole, but we knew what we needed to do,” Laudato said. “Everyone did their part when we were coming back, which is why this was such a great season.

“I’m so proud of these girls and how hard they worked. They are my family and always will be.”

Sophomore guard Paige Salisbury (8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) also was key to the comeback, setting the stage for Bulic to emerge from her game-long foul trouble at crunch time.

After Wiencek made two free throws to put the Hornets up 41-37, Bulic (11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks) buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 22 seconds left to cut the deficit to one.

Not only was it the first high school trey for Bulic, it gave her exactly 1,000 career points. That total became 1,002 a second later when the Michigan volleyball recruit deflected Highland’s inbounds pass in the air, then calmly banked it home to put the Blue Devils back on top at 42-41.

Bulic, whose foot appeared to be on the line on her 3-pointer, missed a free throw after being fouled on her steal and layup, setting the stage for the remarkable finish.

“It was very intense on the court because this game was so important to both teams,” Kirchner said. “At times, I think everyone’s nerves got the best of them, but I never doubted that my teammates would find a way to win.”

Down one, the Hornets missed a pair of shots in the paint before turning the ball over with 11 seconds on the clock. Ironically, that miscue turned out to be the opportunity they needed to win the game.

Despite shooting 18-of-74 from the field, including 4-of-18 on 3-pointers, and 3-of-12 at the foul line, Highland managed to move on and give its first-year coach another feather in his cap.

“Games like this that go down to the buzzer — with both teams giving it everything they’ve got — are why you play basketball,” Bolha said. “The action with the two lead changes and all the plays being made in the last 30 seconds, I know the crowd appreciated it.

“I recognize it wasn’t the prettiest game for a long while (the teams made 13-of-59 field goals, 1-of-15 3-pointers and 1-of-9 free throws in the first half), but as long as we get the win, I’m OK with that.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.