“Obviously a win feels great, but win or lose we have our whole community there supporting us,” said senior guard Ava Lickliter, who scored 11 points. “No matter what happened, we got here. I said in the locker room it’s not even that I’m upset about losing. It’s more of like Carroll is such a great community to be around, it’s just sad that I have to leave that.”
The Patriots came close in the final minute to getting the chance to advance. They rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to lead 36-33 early in the fourth quarter. The second-half Patriots were on a roll. But Napoleon (25-1) has also been a good second-half team, and the Wildcats rallied with an 11-0 run to a 44-36 lead with 2:03 left.
Ochs, who scored a game-high 18 points, made a driving layup with 1:47 left, Takierra Robinson made two free throws with 43 seconds left and Ochs hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut the lead to three.
Napoleon missed a free throw with seven seconds left and the Patriots raced up the floor looking for a tie. They got the ball to Megan Leraas, who made two 3-pointers and scored 10 points, for a 3-point try, but she was well-defended and had to shoot off balance. The ball bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“One shot away from tying the game is tough, but just to see that they had it in them to keep fighting and down by six and they just didn’t give up,” Grosselin said.
Statistically, the thing that hurt the Patriots the most was losing the turnover battle 14-5. The Wildcats took advantage by getting 11 more shots, offsetting the Patriots’ advantage of outshooting the Wildcats 46.9 % to 34.9 %.
“We knew they were going to be a good team defensively because we’d seen them on film,” Grosselin said. “Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment and turnovers happen.”
When the game ended, Ochs ran over to Napoleon coach Corey Kreinbrink with a message.
“She told us to go win it for us, for the teams that couldn’t do this last year,” he said. “That was a really high-character thing to do. I’ve talked a lot this past week about how no one really knows how we felt. They did, and they understand. They’ve had kind of the same mantra and adversity as us, and for her to do that says a lot about them and a lot about her.”
Ochs said, “It’s the right thing to do.” Lickliter spoke up and said: “Class.”
“I have no bias,” Ochs said. “I hope that a great team wins. I just said both of us got this taken away last year. If not us, it would be great if it was them.”