Metea Valley got much more than it bargained for Tuesday night in Roselle.
Leading winless Lake Park by 17 midway through the third quarter -- a team they beat by 31 earlier in the year -- the 10th-ranked Mustangs barely held on for a 62-58 win.
"I give (Lake Park) credit," Metea coach Kris Kalivas said. "They played hard the entire game and caught fire in the second half."
Bria Walker, who scored 16 points for the Mustangs (17-4, 7-2 Upstate Eight Valley), split a pair of free throws with 24.9 seconds to finally allow her team to breathe a little easier, up 4. Walker earlier hit a couple 3-pointers to surge Metea back ahead by 10 with three minutes left after Lake Park (0-23, 0-8) had drawn within 2.
"We had a shaky third quarter, and fourth quarter we didn't play well until the last four minutes," Walker said, "but we picked it up and got the win."
Lake Park needed six minutes to score its first points of the game, trailed by 17 in the second quarter and again down 41-24 with 3:40 left in the third.
Then the Lancers showed a little grit and a lot more offense.
Emily Duckhorn's baseline runner capped off a 16-2 run, and a 3-pointer by Brianna Erri got the Lancers within 45-43 with 6:11 left. Even after Metea seemed to settle itself and go up 10, Lake Park responded and had a possession for the tie with less than a minute left.
Remarkably, given the ice-cold start, the Lancers scored 41 points in the second half with five 3s and got 26 points off its bench, 8 from Erri and 7 from Jen Warfield.
"Once we settled down I thought that was the best stretch of basketball we've played in a while," Lake Park coach Andrea Miller said.
The catalyst for the comeback was Duckhorn. The 5-foot-5 sophomore guard scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half, with back-to-back 3s to get the Lancers to 60-55.
"With her it's a world of difference from last year," Miller said. "The confidence is awesome and she's really taking the team on her shoulders. She's really our glue offensively. She's a big reason why this team has the attitude that it has."
Metea, understandably, may have been guilty of getting a little too comfortable with a big lead.
Kalivas subbed for all five starters late in the third quarter, and by the time they returned it was a ballgame.
Nia Flowers had 17 points and 6 assists, and a 3 to stem Lake Park's comeback and Kellee Clay a big steal and ensuing basket when it was a 2-point game. Jenny Voytell scored 13.
"We tried to give some people some playing time and unfortunately we were unable to sustain that lead," Kalivas said. "Once we put our starters back in they weren't going to let us lose that game."
It's been a trying year for Lake Park and its coach.
There's the winless record, and Miller has had to endure it with her jaw wired shut because of an infection from a wisdom tooth removal. She gets wires cut later this week, and her team's fight perhaps provided some welcome relief.
"That's one thing, is that despite our record they do not get down on themselves. They continue to play hard," Miller said. "We're coming off a tough loss to Bartlett, and they responded. They played a lot harder and a lot smarter."
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