Hanna Grogan often tries to keep a clear head on the basketball court — a potent strategy for Lakeview Academy’s all-time leading scorer.
It was so effective Wednesday night that the senior guard didn’t even realize she added to her career totals significantly after the Lady Lions’ second-round playoff game at Walter Athletic Center.
Grogan put forth a colossal effort from the floor with a game-high 32 points — her final eight from the free-throw line in the closing minutes — to lift the No. 3 seed Lady Lions to a 59-55 victory against Greenforest. With the win, the Lions return to the state quarterfinals of the Class A private tournament with a game against Darlington Tuesday. Game time is still to be determined.
Darlington upset sixth-seeded Calvary Day 57-51 on Wednesday.
The Lady Lions (25-4) led 43-37 after three quarters, but found themselves in a pinch down the home stretch due to the persistent and visibly athletic Lady Eagles. Uloma Enyogasi and Chioma Nnamani combined for 15 of Greenforest’s (12-9) 18 fourth-quarter points to twice cut the margin to five, and once to three with four minutes left before Grogan’s last hurrah.
A poised Grogan put the Lions up by seven on a layup with 2:57 left, seconds after Nnumani drew a three-point play off penetration on the other end. And with the Lions rewarded the double bonus soon after, even Lakeview Academy coach John Carrick didn’t have to tell his players twice.
Grogan said her only focus was on the front of the rim as she sank 8-of-10 attempts in those final four trips to the line to seal it.
“It’s just nice to know that (my teammates) can rely on me there in the end. And it makes me feel better because I’ve worked so hard, and I shoot 25 free throws every day, so it pays off,” smiled Grogan.
Grogan added that the team's solid chemistry was key in the win.
“It was kind of neat to where coach didn’t have to tell her teammates to give it to her,” Carrick added. “They got it, and knew the team was fine with giving it to Hanna.”
Carrick aknowledged Grogan’s value on the team, though felt the home crowd was the biggest aid to the team’s elevated play down the stretch.
“We had a good crowd. These girls are used playing in front of empty seats disguised as people,” quipped Carrick. “(The crowd) gave us energy mid-third, mid-fourth quarter that we needed. You can run them all you want to keep them in shape, but it’s different in the emotional side as well as the physical side when they’re playing in the game.”
The Eagles’ roster of only eight players, coupled with late foul troubles, belittled a 20-point showing from Nnamani. Enyogasi had 17 points, nine boards and six steals for Greenforest.
But Lakeview Academy, returning from an 11-day absence, had it’s discrepancies too. They shot at 48 percent for the contest, a number that proved misleading given its sluggish start.
Fellow senior Christen Copeland (five rebounds) was the only other starter to reach double figures with 10 points, but only converted one of five attempts in the first half while shooting at 50 percent (4 of 8) from the charity stripe.
“We just had such poor shooting at the beginning, and that could be the layoff,” Carrick added. “I loved the energy we came out with. We just couldn’t get the ball into the basket there in the first quarter, and it ended up hurting us.”
The Lions led 15-6 after the first, though failed to make a basket for the first 2:58 of the game while turning it over twice. But an echoing block by Sadie Thrailkill and assist to Grogan sparked an 11-0 scoring spurt that spanned for the final three minutes of the period. Grogan scored seven in that stretch to give the Lions a 15-6 advantage.
Enyogasi converted a steal into a layup to open the second period, and the Eagles went on to use a 15-6 run to tie it at 25-all at the 2:02 mark. Enyogasi scored inside the paint for the Eagles’ second lead with 49 remaining in the half, but Grogan knocked down a trey on the other end to reclaim the lead.
The Eagles tied it at 31-31 to open the third. But Lions got back-to-back baskets by Copeland and Grogan added another big 3 by Grogan during a Lions’ 11-2 surge to stretch Lakeview’s lead to six at the halfway mark.
Also for Lakeview Academy, Kennedy Payne tallied six points and four rebounds, followed by Thrailkill and Ryann Moody with four points apiece.