PENDLETON — The Pendleton Heights girls basketball team survived a late-game scare from Frankton to advance to the Madison County championship against Lapel on Saturday, Jan. 8.
With the game tied at 40-40, Arabian junior Whitney Warfel sank the winning basket as the game-ending buzzer sounded. The basket was two of Warfel’s 12 for the night.
“You don’t want it to come that close to the wire,” Coach Chad Cook said. “But it was a special moment for Whitney to hit that shot in a game like this.”
When the Arabians jumped to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter, it seemed as if the game might be a repeat of the Arabians November win against the Eagles 60-34.
With the defense keeping Frankton from finding an inside shot, and an 11-0 run, Pendleton Heights ended the first quarter up 15-7.
“You can get complacent, and you find out real soon it’s going to be tougher,” Cook said.
The Arabians tacked on another run of 8-3, digging the Eagles’ hole deeper.
However, by the end of the second quarter and key buckets by Cagney Utterback and Lauryn Bates, the Eagles had steadily nipped the Arabian lead to seven points.
Pendleton Heights advanced to the semifinal by way of a forfeit by Anderson, and they had not played a game since before Christmas. That, Cook said, had an impact.
“We were not feeling real good throughout the game. Not doing everything we wanted to do. We were rusty and uneasy the whole game.”
Frankton closed the gap to four points with two and half minutes remaining in the third, when Emma Sperry hit a 3 to cut the Arabian lead to one 29-28.
An Arabian 3-pointer is met with another two by Sperry, 32-30, but Pendleton’s Abi Rozenkrans hits a 3 to end the quarter 35-30, giving the Arabians a little breathing room to start the final eight minutes.
The Arabians were holding on to a 39-33 lead when Bates’ 3 again cuts the lead to three. A missed shot by both teams and a key rebound by Pendleton’s Kylea Lloyd with a little more than two minutes remaining got the ball back in the home team’s court. Freshman Kaycie Warfel was fouled and hit one of two, giving the Arabians a 40-36 lead.
But once again, Frankton’s Sperry hit a 3, fanning the flame to burn down the barn.
A foul with less than a minute to go sent Eagle Bailee Webb to the line, where she tied the game at 40 but missed the second shot. The Arabians got the ball and called a timeout with five seconds left.
Whitney Warfel’s game winning shot exploded the Arabian fans hoping for the opportunity to reach the title game.
Kaycie Warfel led the team with 15 points and 11 rebounds; Rosenkrans had 8 points, and Lloyd had eight rebounds. “It took a heck of an effort on our part to close this one out,” Cook said.
Lapel was on hand to watch but did not play as they were awarded a forfeit from Alexandria-Monroe who was on Covid protocols.
The 2021 runner up Arabians looks to win their ninth championship, the last coming in 2017, while the Bulldogs last won the title in 2008.
“Hopefully we get all our pistons firing and be we can be come the championship game on Saturday,” Cook said.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Pendleton Heights.