— Down 11 with four minutes to play, two Lady Panthers helped deliver one of the biggest wins in program history.
Kristina Miller said she was nervous. Her coach said she was under the weather.
In propelling her team to one of its biggest, most thrilling wins in program history, Miller looked anything but.
Even though it was a regular season game in early January, last Wednesday brought a postseason atmosphere to Samuel Fels High School. Not only would the Lady Panther basketball program be playing one of the top programs in the Public League in Northeast High School, but the game would be broadcast on The Sports Fan Base Network (www.sportsfanbase.com), an online sports media Web site that has recently made local high school athletics viewable for those unable to attend the game.
Down 31-20 to Northeast with roughly four minutes remaining in the game, Fels used a furious rally to score the final 15 points en route to a 35-31 victory that saw its large contingent of supporters rush the court in jubilation when the final buzzer sounded.
Facing a 31-30 deficit with less than 12 seconds to go without the ball, the Lady Panthers never blinked, in large part due to Miller’s heroics. Needing a turnover, Miller, who was bothered by a stomach virus all day, stole Northeast’s inbounds pass and was fouled on a difficult shot that somehow went in.
BEATING THE ODDS
It was just that kind of day for the senior captain, who refused to be denied one of the biggest wins of her high school career.
“We haven’t beaten Northeast since I’ve gone to school here,” she said afterward. “I was able to just sneak in and grab the ball on that play (that won the game). This team knows that if we keep a positive attitude, we can beat any school. We proved that today.”
Not only did Miller make the game’s biggest play, she also kept the Lady Panthers in the game in the third quarter when the Fels offense went stagnant. Sensing her team needed a boost, Miller converted three straight three-pointers on consecutive possessions, turning an 18-11 deficit into a 20-20 tie. The crowd, which had grown weary of missed shots and turnovers, suddenly returned to life.
“We did need the points, and I’m a shooter by nature,” Miller said. “Once I hit the first one, the crowd got me going. If I had missed that first one, I probably wouldn’t have shot it again. I’m so proud of my team, especially ‘Mr.’ Fourth Quarter right here.”
Miller was referring to junior teammate Larkeasha Broaster, standing immediately to her right in the corridor outside the swimming pool at Fels. Miller was the leading scorer at 15 for the game, but Broaster’s 14 weren’t far behind. Not only that, but Broaster scored nine of those in a tenacious final quarter to go along with 12 total rebounds. Of Fels’ 35 points for the game, the duo of Miller and Broaster scored 29 of them. Like Miller, she also praised the home crowd.
“That’s the Fels Panthers for you,” Broaster said. “I love my school. The way we played this game, that’s how we’ve got to play all of them. I’m just so proud of them. I’m too happy, I can’t even talk.”
Head coach George Ewerth had plenty to say about both players, calling them the “gas that makes the engine run.” In his second season as head basketball coach, Ewerth (who also coaches the boys soccer team) said this was exactly the type of statement win that he and athletic director Mark Heimerdinger had hoped for as they continue to establish a strong athletic program at a once-but-no-longer-forgotten school.
“What really helped us today was our fans — they were our sixth man,” Ewerth said. “We’ve been trying to build a fan base for girls basketball over here, and the administration, from principal Shawn McGuigan to Mark, have been so supportive. I just really want to thank them, as well as our fans. I just appreciate the opportunity to coach at Fels.”
The Lady Panthers currently sit at 3-3 overall and were already thinking playoffs after the game. And while the win over the Vikings (4-2) was certainly an accomplishment, Ewerth warned of the possibility of the players’ heads getting too big, something he is hoping to avoid, especially after a 45-37 loss to Lincoln two days later.
“We will deal with that,” the coach said. “They’re talking this and that, and that’s fine, because they’re kids and they get excited. But I want them worrying about scoring the next point.”
However, there were no questions about this being a great day for Samuel Fels. For Miller, she got one of her biggest wins as a student-athlete at Fels, while players who will be around next season, such as Broaster, can use the experience as a springboard for future success.
“Everything we did, we did together,” Broaster said. ••
Sports Editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org