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GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Pioneers headed to first ever Final-Four game after OT win (PHOTOS)
Ashley Henderson has led the Pioneers all season and Tuesday night was no exception when the senior contributed 33 points to the offense and went seven-for-nine from the foul line. Henderon tied the game with just over four minutes to play, giving her team a last minute push en route to their overtime victory. Photo Credit: Dave Chapman
Senior Megan Trueblood only had two points on the night but when Henderson purposely missed her free throw attempt with 4.2 seconds to go, Trueblood was handed the rebound and netted the game tying points to force overtime. Photo Credit: Dave Chapman
It was a battle Tuesday night in Burton and Richard trailed most of the game, but with a final push of momentum, the Pioneers forced overtime and walked away with a 47-44 victory, sending the team to the final-four for the first time in school history. Photo Credit: Dave Chapman
One basket was what it took to tie it, and one last push of momentum was what it took to send the Riverview Gabriel Richard girls' basketball team to the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Class C "Final Four" for the first time in school history.
The Pioneers defeated the Flint Hamady Hawks 47-44 in overtime Tuesday night to secure their trip to the state semifinals.
Richard trailed for almost three full quarters before they were able to get back on top and secure their win.
The contest was close throughout, and the Pioneers never trailed more than six points but could never get over a one-point difference.
Hamady was only up one point, 17-16 after the first quarter and the difference was just four points (24-20 and 34-30) after the second and third quarters.
The Hawks seemed confident they would win, but they don't know Ashley Henderson.
With 4:40 to play in the final quarter, Henderson tied the game at 34-34 and over four minutes of suspense passed before either team scored again.
With 28 seconds to go, Richard's Jacquelyn Reitmeyer was fouled and gave her team a 35-34 lead.
It was sophomore Reitmeyer's only point of the game, and it made all the difference.
"We always practice free throws," Reitmeyer said. "They stress to make the first one because that's what really matters.
"If I wouldn't have made that first one, I don't know what would have happened. It was amazing."
The Hawks were fouled twice in the final 15 seconds and took a 38-35 lead, but with 4.2 seconds left on the clock, Henderson got the final foul of regulation and had two free throw attempts.
At that point, Henderson was seven-for-eight from the foul line and Coach William Jones told his senior star to purposely miss her second attempt.
"I looked at Jones and he was like ‘miss your second one,' and I was like what? I've never done this before," Henderson said. "So I just chucked it at the backboard, had it hit rim (and) I sprinted so hard for the rebound."
In a flurry of seconds that seemed like an eternity, Henderson got the rebound as it was heading out of bounds and passed it in, hoping for the best.
"I just threw it to someone," she said.
That someone was Emily Cooper and as crowd held its breath, Cooper passed it to Megan Trueblood right under the basket and Trueblood made the easy shot as the buzzer sounded to tie the game.
"It was amazing," Trueblood said.
Trueblood, who is playing her first year of competitive basketball since eight grade, said she doesn't typically play with the players she was on the floor with and was surprised her coach put her in.
"I was surprised," Trueblood said. "Ashley said I'm gonna miss this second one on purpose and I just knew we were gonna get it and I knew we could.
"I thought Coop (Cooper) was gonna take the ball, and she passed it to me. It was amazing."
Hamady took a lead quickly in the overtime, but the Pioneers, having turned an already good game into a great one, were not giving up that easily.
With a 47-44 lead, the Pioneers fouled the Hawks all the way down the court with less than 10 seconds to go and when Morgan Casanova grabbed the rebound of a last minute Hamady three-point attempt, the game was over and Richard was on their way to the final four for the first time ever.
It was a magical moment for the Pioneers, who lost their quarterfinal game last season to University Liggett.
"We just mentioned that it was enough to have the honor to get here again and prove that last year wasn't a fluke and prove that we are deserving of this kind of recognition," Jones said. "Having the opportunity, and making something happen."
Jones was thrilled with his team's win and said the girls bought in to what he wanted to do this season and worked hard for it.
Jones said the last minutes of play were like a scripted moment, but not necessarily one his team was prepared for.
"For me to tell you ‘we work on that everyday' would not be true," he said. "On the other hand, this game is so beautiful because of the spontaneity. It's beautiful because of the creativity. It's beautiful because you can always script and plan it and plot it and then it'll go completely opposite of whatever you thought it was going to do.
"Moments come, things happen, and what can you say? It's teenagers doing something wonderful together when it's the most opportune time."
Jones said he felt for the Hawks because he has been in that situation before.
"I've been the other team before with the lead," he said. "And you're just waiting and hoping and listening for the clock.
"But when kids play through the buzzer, they play through the clock, they play through the contact, through the whistle, all that stuff; strange things happen."
And strange, but wonderful things for the Pioneers, did happen when the team snatched a win away from their opponent who seemed so sure of their victory.
"Them being as steady as they were most of the game and then all of the sudden here we have snatched defeat from the jaws of the lions. It's great," Jones said.
Jones stresses a team effort and the Pioneers saw scoring from seven different players en route to their victory.
Henderson dominated the offense, finishing the night with 33 points.
Little sister Kelly Henderson and Trueblood finished the night with four points and three rebounds each.
Morgan Casanova recorded three points, Casey Lyons (one rebound) and Cooper (four rebounds) each had two points, and Reitmeyer had one and two rebounds.
Jones was not only pleased with his team's effort on the court, but also commented on the girls who did not see playing time during the game.
"Without their efforts, we can't even sniff this opportunity," he said. "Had we not had it in prior games, we wouldn't be here today. It doesn't happen without those kids."
There were 10 timeouts called on the night and each time the Pioneers stressed one ideal; finish the game.
Trueblood talked about how the team has shirts that say finish on the back and said they did just that tonight.
"We just talked about how we really need to push and really need to finish," Trueblood said. "(We) kept telling each other that we just need to finish and I think we did a great job today."
Henderson was equally as proud of her team.
"I was just so proud of my team," she said. "Everyone stepped up and did their job."
When questioned what was going through her head when she tied the game in the fourth quarter Hendreson smiled and said, "I just knew it wasn't going to be my last game."
Henderson will have at least one more game in her senior season when the Pioneers travel to the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Thursday for the final-four game.
Jones told his team being a final-four team is an honor bestowed on a select few every year and is proud of his team's season.
"We believe in the quality of our kids," he said. "We believe in the quality of what we do and how we do it.
"And most importantly, we believe in each other. When you have that recipe, you always have a chance for a great season."
The Pioneers play Manchester on Thursday at 1 pm at Michigan State University.
Last Updated: 3/13/2013 1:00:44 AM EST