ROCK HILL, Ohio — Sometimes all it takes is a lucky bounce.
The lady Trojans were the recipients of that luck Wednesday as Sharia Kearns found herself all alone under the basket with four seconds remaining to give No. 9 Portsmouth the 47-45 victory over the eighth-seeded Coal Grove Hornets in a District III Semifinal match.
Tied at 45 with 45 seconds remaining on the clock, the Trojans had the ball for one final possession. Coming out of a timeout, Faythe Lee took the initial shot a bit early, which was rebounded by the Hornets and gave Coal Grove one more opportunity with nine seconds remaining. However, in a mad rush, the Hornets threw a baseball-style pass the length of the court, which was intercepted by the Trojans.
Portsmouth threw a similar pass back down the court, which allowed a player from each team to converge on the ball. However, as both players dove to the ground, the ball eluded them and ended up in the hands of Kearns who hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer.
“What a way to end it at the end,” Trojans head coach Kristen Bradshaw said. “Luckily we got back on defense and were there to intercept that pass. Like I told them in the locker room, ‘You guys played until the end, until the very last second. If our effort wouldn’t have been there the last 10 seconds, it would have been their game easily.’ I’m proud of them of playing until the very last second.
“I was pretty calm during the timeout because the worse that could happen was we go into overtime. (The girls) were pretty calm and excited, it’s actually the first game we’ve been in like this. We had three freshman on the court the entire fourth quarter. It was huge for them to keep their composure. I stayed calm until I saw Sharia (Kerns) with the ball and I knew she would finish.”
Portsmouth (5-16) entered the tournament as the ninth seed after a tumultuous season but the Trojans were ready to make their mark in postseason play, breaking the huddle at the beginning of the contest with the “whatever it takes” slogan.
“This has been a long season with injuries but we’ve been playing our best the last three weeks,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve tried to change the tempo and the attitudes that they set when they step onto the court …
“This is our fifth win and I think it’s been four years since Portsmouth has won a game in the tournament, so I think they took that challenge before the game. They wanted to be the ones to do it.”
The Trojans showed their competitiveness in the third quarter when they trailed by as many as 12 points but they never wavered, cutting the deficit to five entering the final quarter of play.
“We were down eight at halftime and I told them, ‘We are going to have to cut this lead down the first few minutes, let’s not wait until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter,’” Bradshaw said. “We went full-court man. We put our five guards in. They denied the inbounds pass. They face guarded them. The caused some turnovers. I think we got six turnovers in a row off of our press. I think that kind of set the tone in the second half.”
Portsmouth had four players score in double figures. Seniors Lee and Wesleigh Jackson as well as junior Semajah Parker all scored 11 points, while Kearns finished with 10 on the night.
“We were balanced in scoring and that’s something we haven’t had all year,” Bradshaw said. “We usually have someone scoring 20 and the rest scoring four and two. Right now we’re passing the ball really well, which is something we haven’t done all year. They are finally relying on their teammates and not trying to play one-on-one.”
The Trojans return to Rock Hill Saturday as the face the undefeated and No. 1 seed Ironton Fighting Tigers in the sectional Finals. Tipoff is scheduled at 1 p.m.
“We’ve got Ironton on Saturday and they’re a good team,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve played them twice this year. We got better the second time we played them. I told them in the locker room, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose.’ They’re excited.”
Portsmouth 5 12 17 12 — 47
Coal Grove 13 12 14 6 — 45
Portsmouth — Eley 1-0-2, K. Kearns 1-0-2, Lee 4-0-11, S. Kearns 2-5-10, Jackson 3-2-11, Parker 3-5-11.
Coal Grove — McKnight 1-0-3, Beals 7-3-18, Compliment 3-4-10, Murphy 2-2-6, Crum 3-1-8.
Three-point field goals — Portsmouth 5 (Lee, S. Kearns, Jackson 3); Coal Grove 3 (McKnight, Beals, Crum).
Records — Portsmouth 5-16; Coal Grove N/A
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.