MEDINA — Once Lakewood sophomore Christin Donahoe collects her thoughts, she’ll relive a once-in-a-lifetime moment over and over and over again.
So, too, will Brunswick’s girls basketball team — for all the wrong reasons.
All the Blue Devils needed to do Tuesday was inbound and kill the final 3.8 seconds of their Medina Division I District semifinal. An off-target pass instead led to the luckiest bounce of Donahue’s life.
When Donahoe hit nothing but net on a wide-open 12-foot jumper as time expired, arms flailed high in shock and the Rangers stormed the court in unbridled joy.
Final score: Lakewood 40, Brunswick 39 in a you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me thriller.
“I pulled the trigger, it went in and the girls came rushing at me,” said Donahoe, whose team advances to face top-seeded Wadsworth (24-1) for the district title Friday. “I don’t know, it was crazy.”
Donahoe’s heartbreaker came 362 days after Highland’s Marlee Profitt scored off an errant inbounds pass with eight seconds left to beat Brunswick 43-42.
Déjà vu has never been so cruel.
“It’s not bad luck,” Brunswick coach Halle Lengal said. “It just goes back to mental focus. You’ve got to realize the game’s on the line, but it’s not just those things. Every loose ball they had a hand on. That’s not OK, and that’s what was happening in the first half. That’s not how we play.”
Donahoe’s bullet was the only one 14th-seeded Brunswick didn’t dodge in the final 70 seconds, as sixth-seeded Lakewood (18-4) committed two turnovers sandwiched around a missed front end of a one-and-one with the Blue Devils up 39-38.
The Rangers were in desperation mode when point guard Ryann Greenfield’s inbounds pass underneath the rim went off center Tori Milicevic’s outstretched hand on the block and out of bounds with 3.8 seconds left.
Standing in front of where Medina’s student section normally raises Kane, freshman Olivia Andrew (10 points), who gave Brunswick its only lead just 66 seconds earlier, then inbounded backward to point guard Paige Salisbury (20 points, 8 rebounds).
However, the pass was a tad long and Salisbury tried to corral it as her momentum carried toward the baseline. Realizing she wasn’t going to be able to balance long enough on one foot, Salisbury turned and attempted to bounce the ball high into the air.
It then hopped directly into the arms of Donahoe, who, without a soul nearby, calmly launched the shot heard ’round Rich H. Clevidence Gymnasium.
“In my head, I was like, ‘Man, this is not the way I wanted to end my season,”’ the backup said. “When the ball went in and was tipped back to me, I guess (my teammates) are telling me now I had a wide-open lane.
“My mom and my coach always tell me to just go out and play basketball, so I had no thoughts of driving and no thoughts of anything expect just pull the trigger.”
The unbelievable ending capped an unbelievable final two minutes, as Brunswick trailed 36-29 with 5:27 left, inched closer when Salisbury found Clare Albino inside and took the lead on a contested step-back 3-pointer by Andrew at the 1:10 mark.
Moments after Brunswick’s Monica Wasson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 50.3 seconds left, Lakewood attempted to seal its fate when Maggie Rowell, who shut down the Blue Devils’ Farrah Benner (0 points on 0-for-9 shooting), missed her own one-and-one and committed a turnover just 7.7 seconds apart.
But the Rangers remained alive when the Blue Devils’ Albino matched Wasson and Rowell with an open one-and-one.
Lakewood then struggled against outstanding man defense until Donahoe threw up a triple-teamed shot in the lane that eventually tipped off a Brunswick player out of bounds with 6.2 seconds left.
That set up the final two plays of the game.
“We’re Lakewood basketball,” Donahoe said, “and we always find a way to win.”
For all of Brunswick’s downfalls in crunch time, Lengal almost entirely deflected blame to a horrible start. The Blue Devils went down 8-0 until Salisbury got them on the board 4:59 into the game and couldn’t take advantage of a second quarter in which the Rangers shot 2-for-17.
The game would have never reached the thrilling conclusion if not for Salisbury, who took over when all Brunswick hope appeared lost. The extremely versatile 5-foot-8 junior scored 13 straight Blue Devils points in the second half, and her third 3-pointer made it 36-32 Lakewood midway through the fourth.
Salisbury then picked up a key steal once Brunswick ditched a 3-2 defense for a half-court trap and assisted on Albino’s straight-on bank shot in the paint, giving way for Andrew’s 3-pointer on the next possession.
“(Salisbury) is awesome. That kid’s a beast,” Lengal said. “We expect her to do a little bit of everything, and she does.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, déjà vu had the final and very, very cruel laugh.
“I told the kids it’s not about the last possession and it’s not about the free throws,” Lengal said. “Obviously, we would have liked to have those things work out, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the fact we weren’t ready to match their intensity in the first half.
“We were close, but some of us weren’t ready to play.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.