Courtesy of T.J. Rushing, Special to the Register
PLEASANT HILL, Ia. — In the final seconds of regulation, Southeast Polk senior Casey Stuart made not one, but two game tying shots against No. 2 Johnson.
Then in overtime, she buried more, scoring seven of the Rams' nine points and securing the 60-57 upset win over the Dragons.
When the dust settled, she had a game-high and season-high 29 points — 12 of them in the final 4:12.
"She's definitely a tough-nosed player, and when the game is on the line she wants to get to the rim," said Southeast Polk coach Tracy Dailey. "She was able to get to the rim, and she made some tough shots there towards the end of the game."
With 12 seconds left and the Rams down three, Stuart calmly knocked down a game tying 3-pointer. But then on the Dragons' ensuing inbound, Rams junior Sierra Mitchell was called for a foul, and the Dragons converted both free throws to give them a two-point edge.
Then, with 7.8 seconds to go, Stuart went coast-to-coast, slicing through the lane to convert a layup, and her second equalizing shot.
"We told her (Mitchell) to shake it off after the foul, and then we ran a play to try and get a layup and it didn't work, so I just went to the basket," Stuart said.
Southeast Polk, which trailed nearly all of regulation, was on the verge of going down by double digits midway through the second quarter. But it was Mitchell who kept the Rams afloat, scoring eight points in period and knocking in back-to-back triples to aid her team to a 21-all halftime tie.
Mitchell was the second-leading scorer for the Rams with 15. Johnston was led by Rachel Hinders' 18 points.
According to Stuart, it was the Rams' chemistry and togetherness that spurred the upset.
"We had been struggling these past few games, trying to figure out how to play together as a team," said Stuart. "And we came out really wanting to beat them (Johnston) tonight, and it all just clicked. It was a team win for sure."
With the upset win over the Dragons, Southeast Polk goes into their break with three straight wins. Dailey says her team plays better when the competition stiffens.
"They get up for big games, which is why we like playing a tougher schedule," Dailey said. "It takes everything they got, and it takes all of them."
Johnston (57) — Rachel Hinders 18, Taryn Knuth 13, Jennah Johnson 10, Haylee Towers 9, Page Sieren 3, Shayna Stubbs 2, Elle Brown 2.
Johnston…9 12 17 13 6—57
Southeast Polk…6 15 14 16 7—58
3-point goals — Johnston (Haylee Towers 3). Southeast Polk (Sierra Mitchell 3, Casey Stuart 2, Abby Penquite 2). Fouls — Johnston 16, Southeast Polk 17.