MILLBURY – Evergreen center Kaela Fauble doesn’t usually score much.
Usually the 6’1” senior rebounds, blocks shots and redirects passes in the Viking press.
In fact she only took two shots the entire game in the Division III district final against Otsego at Lake on Saturday.
It was the one she made that all of northern Fulton County will remember for a long time as her stickback of an offensive rebound with just under three seconds left gave Evergreen a 31-30 come from behind win and coach John Langenderfer’s first district title in four tries in the final.
It was also the first district crown for the program.
“I’m a little emotional,” said Langenderfer after. “It’s big. It’s something we really wanted and we’re pleased obviously.”
“What a huge huge play,” Langenderfer said of Fauble’s hoop. “She doesn’t score a ton of points most games but boy she got two big ones when we needed it or we’re going home right now.”
“I just do what I normally do in practice,” said Fauble. “I just wanted to get the rebound and get it back up there.”
The title game was more like a street fight at times as both the Knights and Vikes got after it on the defensive end of the floor.
“It was physical and there really wasn’t any flow to the game because of the intensity on the defensive end,” said Langenderfer.
Haili Mossing and Rachael Noe each hit threes for Evergreen in the first but Morgan Smoyer and Kim Forshey accounted for all nine Knight points and a 9-8 Otsego lead.
Mossing and Noe each tripled in the second to help forge an 18-14 lead but Forshey’s drive with 36 seconds left in the half knotted the score at 18 at intermission.
The game was still knotted after three at 24 when Otsego jumped out the first two possessions of the fourth on Mackenzie Varner’s three and Hannah Fonseca’s steal and score to put the Knights up five with 7:12 left.
Little did anyone know that would be the last Otsego basket of the day.
The Vikings denied Smoyer and forced five straight shots, some of which were ill-advised, that missed along with a pair of turnovers and got back into the game at the foul line.
Mossing hit a pair on Smoyer’s fourth foul with 4:36 left, then split a pair 90 seconds later to chop the lead to 29-27.
Smoyer split two from the line at the 1:39 mark to make it 30-27 but Evergreen’s Eden Eisel countered with two that hit nothing but net on Forshey’s fourth foul 21 seconds later.
Yet another shot that probably shouldn’t have been taken was blocked by Fauble and the Vikings had a chance with 37 seconds left.
Noe’s open three was on line but long.
Forshey tried to advance the ball up the floor but was swarmed by Eisel and Hannah Herr and her cross court pass went to a Knight fan in the front row, giving Evergreen one last chance.
Noe got to the rim in traffic but her shot was off the mark, but Fauble went high to grab a hotly contested rebound and scored on the putback and the clock ran out before Forshey’s long heave from 80 feet.
“To make that shot, my last one and being a senior is really special,” said Fauble.
Even more special for Langenderfer and the rest of the Vikings who have been on the verge of the final 16 three other times in the last six years but hadn’t broken through.
“This isn’t the same team we’ve had all year,” said Langenderfer. “The people who got to watch (injured Viking point guard) Alyssa Noe play, she’s worth the price in money and obviously she was next to me all day, which means we had to grind out another one. We’ve been really resilient because Otsego played really hard and their big kids are good. We keep battling and battling. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to win the district, so we survived to play another day.”
The day is tonight as the sixth-ranked Vikings play Columbus Grove in the Ohio Northern Regional at Ada.
Evergreen shot just 30 percent from the floor and committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. Otsego was just 10 of 41 from the floor, including misfiring on their last nine attempts and had 12 turnovers.
Mossing led all scorers in the title game contest with 16.
Forshey had 11 and Smoyer 10 for the Knights who go home at 20-6.
Evergreen tops Genoa, Streaks fall to Knights in semis
The road both teams took to get to the championship game was entirely different.
The Vikings went through their worst offensive quarter of the season against Northern Buckeye Conference champ Genoa in the semifinal.
Six missed layups and six turnovers equated to an 11-0 Genoa lead before Haili Mossing averted a first stanza shutout with a baseline jumper with 34 seconds left.
Haley Pickard scored the last of her four cherry-pick run-out hoops to give Genoa a 15-4 lead with 5:43 left in the half when the Viking defense clamped down and Rachael Noe blew the lid off the rim with a Steph Curry range three-ball from way above the top of the key.
Eden Eisel propelled the Vikings with a blocked shot on the perimeter that she turned into a fastbreak hoop, then scored on a crossover right-to-left and back to the right that left a Genoa defender reaching for air to slash the Comet lead to 17-12.
“My game is usually driving to the basket and passing out to our three point shooters,” said Eisel. “A couple times I got past them and (Comet big girl Erica) Harder wasn’t there so that worked out for us.
“The best part about our team (is that) it’s not just one player. If someone is having a bad night, everyone else picks them up.”
Noe then drilled another triple and Eisel followed with one of her own to give the Vikings their first lead, 18-17, that they expanded to 21-17 at the break.
“That’s kind of how we’ve played all year,” said Langenderfer. “I don’t know what it was in the first quarter, we didn’t have much movement, we missed easy shots, we missed easy passes. Once Rachael took the lid off, we found out it was the same old game, let’s play.”
Fauble’s offensive rebound basket to open the second half, Hannah Herr’s three-ball along with one from Mossing opened up a nine-point lead, but a pair of free throws and a layup from Pickard helped bring the Comets back to within 29-27 before Eisel fed Mossing for a layup to double the lead at the end of three.
The Vikings three-point shooting in the fourth turned a scratch into a gash as Mossing hit from the left corner and deep on the left wing and Herr struck again from the left corner to open up a 42-31 lead.
Evergreen held the Comets without a basket the rest of the way in the 49-32 win.
“Defensively we were pretty good again,” explained Langenderfer. “We took away their running game after those first few run outs and they never really could solve the zone.”
After their first quarter hiatus, Evergreen shot 53 percent for the rest of the game, while harassing the Comets into 7 of 37 the rest of the game, destroying Genoa on the glass 30-15.
Mossing’s 17 led the Vikings while Eisel added 14. Pickard’s 15 led Genoa who bowed out with a 22-3 record on the season.
Meanwhile, Otsego raced out to a 20-7 first quarter lead against Archbold and fended off a pair of Blue Streak rallies to hold on for the win.
After Kierstyn Repp’s three 33 seconds into the game, Otsego countered with their 6’ twin towers of Morgan Smoyer and Kim Forshey.
Smoyer got an easy layup and Forshey drilled a triple to make it 5-3 before Andi Peterson’s baseline jumper got the Streaks as close as they would come the rest of the night at 5-5.
From that point Otsego scored 15 of the next 17 points, Smoyer getting 10 straight to open up a 20-7 first quarter lead.
Both teams went stone cold in the second as Archbold shot 3 for 17 and the Knights scored a single hoop on 11 tries as Otsego took a 22-13 lead into the locker room.
Archbold chopped the lead to 24-20 on two more triples from Repp in the third but Smoyer’s score on an out of bounds play and Forshey’s spin to the rim doubled the lead to eight, 32-24, with 2:01 left.
Brooke Kohler’s baseline jumper before the end of the third and Repp’s basket off the offensive glass to start the fourth again got the Streaks to 32-28, but it was Smoyer again with six straight on two more baskets inside and a pair of free throws to get Otsego back to a ten point margin that led to the 44-35 final.
Smoyer’s 23 led all scorers while Repp led the Streaks, who shot 25 percent from the floor on the night, with 15.
Joe Blystone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org