There’s just something about the postseason — and the underdog role — that brings out the best in the Ravenwood girls basketball team.
The Lady Raptors, who’ve made deep postseason runs in each of the past two seasons, pulled off their latest surprise on Friday night when they notched a 53-50 overtime victory against host Independence in the quarterfinals of the District 11-AAA tournament.
Lexi Erickson hit a clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, and Elizabeth Flynn, Reghan Grimes and Mary Prestegaard each contributed key buckets in OT to help the Lady Raptors grab the dramatic victory. The win sends Ravenwood into Saturday’s semifinals to face top-seeded Brentwood and assures the Lady Raptors of a berth in the Region 6-AAA tournament.
Grimes finished with a team-high 19 points, Flynn had 12 and Erickson added 11 to help the No. 5-seeded Lady Raptors (14-13) squeak out the victory against the No. 4-seeded Lady Eagles (16-10). Prestegaard finished with nine points, and Ava Lavigne and Ella Craig also contributed key plays in the victory.
“It was a gutsy performance and I am so proud of the girls,” said Ravenwood head coach Andrew James. “This game was our whole season in a nutshell. We’ve had to deal with adversity all season long, and every time we’ve felt like we were about to get over the hump, something crazy would happen. And that’s really how the game went tonight, too.”
Jailyn Banks had a terrific performance for Indy, scoring a game-high 25 points. She scored 13 points in the final 12 minutes — spanning the fourth quarter and overtime — by delivering one crucial shot after the next.
Banks made a pair of free throws with 1:25 left in overtime to tie the game at 50-50, but Indy didn’t score again the rest of the way. On the other end of the floor, Ravenwood struggled at the foul line — making just 3-of-6 attempts in the final 39 seconds — but that proved to be enough to escape with the win.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this season that ended up getting away from us,” said Erickson. “And we just knew we didn’t want to let that happen again.”
Erickson is a three-year starter for the Lady Raptors and has been a part of some historic wins in her career, including playing a major role in helping Ravenwood advance to the state tournament for the first time in program history in 2018.
Erickson can now add Friday’s game to her index of enjoyable memories.
“This one definitely ranks toward the top of the list,” said Erickson, who played all 36 minutes of the contest. “Coming into this game, a lot of people, outside of our team, were doubting that we could accomplish something like this. So, it was really exciting to prove everybody wrong and stay true to what we do.”
Lindsay Freeman finished with 11 points and Amy Tang added 10 for Indy, which entered the tourney on the heels of a memorable regular season. The Lady Eagles stayed near the top of the district standings throughout the season – an impressive feat for a team that won just six games in 2018-19 and had not produced a winning record since going 17-10 in 2013.
Understandably, Friday’s loss was difficult to digest for the Lady Eagles.
“I hate it for the kids, especially for the kids who are blaming themselves and thinking that this game is going to define their season — because it doesn’t,” said Independence head coach Bryan Glasner, who orchestrated the Lady Eagles’ turnaround in his first season at the helm. “They have showed great character all year, even when people have been counting them out.”
The game featured 11 lead changes and eight ties — and a seemingly endless amount of drama.
Ravenwood owned a 32-26 lead early in the fourth quarter before Indy stormed back and eventually moved in front, 39-38, after a three-point play by Banks with 1:13 to go. The Lady Eagles held a 42-40 edge after Banks went 1-of-2 at the foul line with 30 seconds remaining, but after a wild sequence, Ravenwood ended up with one final possession, on its end of the floor, with just five seconds to play.
After a timeout, the Lady Raptors executed an in-bounds play that resulted in Erickson getting loose in the corner and knocking down a 3-pointer with just 2.2 seconds remaining, giving Ravenwood a 43-42 lead. But on Indy’s ensuing possession, Erickson was called for a foul and Tang converted on her second free throw to send the game to overtime.
The score was tied on three occasions in OT before Ravenwood nudged in front in the final 39 seconds, and then held on for the win when the Lady Eagles missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“There were a lot of up and downs tonight, and we hit some rough spots, but our team is really good about coming together,” said Flynn. “We stayed calm throughout the game and overtime, and we just focused on playing our game.”
James agreed with that assessment, saying that his team did a great job of keeping its composure.
“There was no panic,” he said. “There was a toughness mentality that we had in the huddle, and I honestly felt like we were going to be fine.”
In the other locker room, there was plenty of emotion shown by the Indy players following the intense contest.
“It’s tournament basketball,” said Glasner. “And the only bad thing about basketball is that there is only one team in each classification that is happy at the end of the year.
“But I’ll tell you this — to see what these young ladies have done since June, in terms of changing the culture and setting the foundation for future Lady Eagles to come, is incredible,” he said. “And nobody can take that away from them. Doing what they’ve done is a testimony to them and their hard work.”
Ravenwood girls 53, Independence 50, District 11-AAA quarterfinals
Ravenwood 7 11 11 14 10 — 53
Independence 10 7 7 19 7 — 50
RHS (53) – Lexi Erickson 11, Elizabeth Flynn 12, Reghan Grimes 19, Mary Prestegaard 9, Ella Craig 2.
IHS (50) – Lindsay Freeman 11, Jailyn Banks 25, Amy Tang 10, Kayla Miller 4.
3-pointers — Ravenwood 3 (Flynn 2, Erickson), Indy 2 (Banks, Freeman). Free throws — Ravenwood 10-18, Indy 16-24.