TOURNEY CHAMPS: The Lady Huskies celebrate a sectionals championship with a 41-36 win in overtime against Yorktown. Hamilton Heights will play Marion in the regionals semifinals Saturday at 10 a.m.
TOURNEY CHAMPS: The Lady Huskies celebrate a sectionals championship with a 41-36 win in overtime against Yorktown. Hamilton Heights will play Marion in the regionals semifinals Saturday at 10 a.m.
Hamilton Heights head coach Keegan Cherry doesn’t want this season to end for his seniors — and after Saturday’s 41-36 overtime win against Yorktown in the Class 3A Sectional 24 Championship, the Huskies are guaranteed at least one more game. 

“I’m so happy for these girls,” Cherry said. “They’re just fantastic kids. We had so many chances in regulation to win.” 

With the score locked at 33 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Heights senior Kayla Kirtley missed a shot that teammate Ana Collar rebounded and kicked back out to point guard Lexi Branham. A Yorktown player tipped the ball and a scramble ensued that ended with Branham banking in a 3-pointer as the clock seemed to expire. 

The Huskies began to celebrate on the court, but the referees huddled together and deemed that Cherry had asked for a timeout prior to Branham releasing the shot. 

“I did call for the timeout,” Cherry said. “I didn’t think we were going to have a clean look … so it was a good call by the officials.” 

The refs put one second back on the clock — just enough time for Branham to throw up one last heave that clanked off the rim. 

Kirtley said she was surprised Cherry called the timeout, but that she knew her teammates would respond in overtime — and answer they did. The Huskies outscored the Tigers 8-3 in the extra period, going 7-of-8 from the foul line down the stretch. 

Kirtley finished with a team-high 13 points and fulfilled a longtime dream along the way. 

“Lexi, Ana and I have wanted this since we were 8-years-old,” Kirtley said. “I can’t believe it’s true, honestly.”

Collar, who scored eight points, battled foul trouble throughout the game and was forced to the bench for much of the first half. It was difficult, she said, to watch from the sidelines as her teammates fought for a title. When she returned, Collar was involved in some of the game’s most crucial plays, including an offensive rebound in the third quarter that resulted in a 3-pointer from junior Lauryn Wiley. 

“Ana is what our program is about,” Cherry said. “She’s as tough as it gets. She loves to compete — she understands how to compete — and I’ll take a team full of Ana Collar’s and go to battle any day.”

Yorktown freshman Carley Culberson did her best to keep her team in the game, scoring a game-high 26 points, including the Tigers last 14 points. 

Sophomore Bayleigh Runner finished with nine for Heights, which included three big free throws to give the Huskies some breathing room in overtime. Branham and Wiley scored five points each. 

Heights (19-7) advances to play Marion (21-4) in the regionals semifinals Saturday at 10 a.m.