Going up against state-ranked Neuqua Valley, Prospect's girls basketball team wouldn't go away in the fourth-round game of the York Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday.
When it was over, the Knights went away with one of their most impressive wins in school history, 54-52, and a 4-0 record in the six-team tourney that concludes Saturday.
"This was our goal," said Knights senior forward Catherine Sherwood (17 points, 5 rebounds). "We knew they were ranked and we wanted to show everyone that we were a good team, too, and we should be in the rankings, too."
After the Wildcats (3-2, 3-2) missed a layup with five seconds left and the game tied at 52-52, Prospect junior Taylor Will (17 points, 6 rebounds) was fouled with four seconds left.
The high-scoring guard made 2 of 4 free throws in the remaining time to lift the Knights to the triumph, leaving them one win away from the tourney title. Prospect faces Wheaton North (2-2) at 12:30 p.m. today.
Will made the first free throw for a 53-52 lead.
With only Wildcats waiting for the rebound (Prospect players were on the defensive end of the court), Will managed to rebound her missed second shot and was fouled again.
She then made 1 of 2 shots with 1.1 seconds left and Neuqua Valley missed a 40-footer at the buzzer, giving Prospect the dramatic win.
"That last shot we missed didn't lose the game," said Wildcats veteran coach Mike Williams. "We had about 15 other missed shots from inside. That's a big win for Prospect. I congratulate them."
The Wildcats, who are ranked No. 6 in the state's Class 4A poll and No. 5 in the Daily Herald rankings, led much of the game.
Their biggest lead was 22-14 early in the second quarter. They also led 45-40 late in the third quarter.
However, Sherwood's driving bank shot and Will's fastbreak layup just before the buzzer got Prospect to within 45-44 going into the fourth quarter.
"That team (Prospect) hung in there," Williams said. "They didn't back off. You give them some air, and they take advantage. Give them all the credit."
The lead went back and forth in the final eight minutes.
Will's steal and layup gave Prospect a 48-45 lead but Neuqua Valley quickly struck back with buckets from Najee Smith (11 points) and Kai Moon (12 points) to regain a 49-48 lead.
Two free throws by Will made it 50-49 and another by Mallory Gonzalez (6 points) put Prospect ahead 51-49 with four minutes left.
Maya Starks' 3-point play put Neuqua Valley ahead 52-51 before a free throw by Sherwood tied the game at 52 with 1:16 left.
The Wildcats held the ball until 17.8 seconds when Williams called for a timeout to set up their final possession.
After the missed layup, Will got her hands on the ball and was fouled.
"That was awesome when Taylor got her own rebound (after her second free throw)," Sherwood said. "This was really, really exciting. Our goal was to stay in our 2-3 zone."
Sherwood's goal was to stop Neuqua Valley's Bryce Menendez, who fouled out midway through the fourth quarter after scoring 8 points, all in the first half.
"Catherine had a huge game, by far her best of the tournament," said Prospect coach Ashley Graham. "She had a huge assignment (guarding dangerous scoring threat Menendez) and she was excellent, jamming her and forcing her left.
"Obviously, Catherine also took care of business on offense, too, and did a good job at the free throw line (5-of-6). She had struggled with fouls in the last few games and we needed her to stay in this game, and she did. She was completely assignment-correct. I'm happy for her."
The Knights couldn't have been happier with the outcome.
"Definitely, my biggest win in three years at Prospect," said Will, whose freshman sister Haley played a big part running the offense and scoring 8 points with a big 3-pointer in the third quarter. "We were a little stressed out by their press and zone in the first half. We hadn't seen that kind of defense yet. "
Marissa Pacini (5 points, 4 rebounds) came up with 2 big baskets in the final minute of the second quarter to get Prospect to within 31-28 at intermission.
"We just went into the locker room at half and said we had to calm down and take it slower. After a while we got the hang of the zone, and we were looking to find the gaps."
Graham found help on her bench, too.
"Our subs (Nikki Matters and Hannah Grott) did such a great job coming into the game," she said. "They handled the ball well for us and that's what we needed."
Williams said his team needed a little less foul trouble .
"We've got a very talented team with players who can do a lot of things," said Williams, who also received 8 points from Niki Lazar, all in the first half. "We've got a target on their back, but that's OK.
"Even in our years when we went downstate, like our 30-6 team, we lost games early because of doing the things we did in this game. We'll go back to work at it and figure it out."