ORONO, Maine — Coaches have drills they use to help prepare their players for certain game situations.
One of those drills came in handy for the Orono High School girls basketball team when it tipped Schenck 89-88 in four overtimes at East Millinocket on Saturday.
Orono’s Elea Kass stepped to the free-throw line Saturday with seven seconds left and hit two free throws to lift the Red Riots to the win. They were the last two free throws in a 40-for-56 night.
“It’s funny because in practice the night before, we went over scenarios where the game is tied with seven seconds left and each team has a 30-second timeout left,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham.
“It made the kids think about the situation and prepared us for that,” she said.
Kass downplayed her role in the win.
“It just happened I was the one taking them at the end,” she said.
She didn’t feel nervous.
“When I got to the line, I realized I’ve got the opportunity to do something I had trained for,” said the junior guard.
Kass had tried to get the final points by driving to the basket. She missed the shot but grabbed the rebound and was fouled on the putback.
Kass, who made 10 of her 11 free throw attempts Saturday, said she has always been a strong free-throw shooter.
“The coach has a drill where we shoot free throws until we miss,” said Kass. “If we make 20 in a row, we get a Subway gift card — kind of a nutrition reward for putting in so much work.
“We’ve been doing it since my freshman year. I got so many she finally had to stop it. Now it’s only once a year [that someone wins].”
That’s usually still Kass.
“The coach really values foul shots,” said Kass, “so I try to lead by example by shooting outside of practice.”
She also didn’t put any more importance on her last two free throws than anyone else’s earlier in the game.
“You don’t get to the fourth overtime if you’re not doing well in the others,” Kass said.
Witham has seen an improvement in the team over the past couple of years.
“We’ve been shooting quite a few free throws this year,” Witham said. “In the past we weren’t so good. This year we’re shooting much better.”
Jillian Woodward, the team’s lone senior, also had a strong night on the line, making 10 of 12 before fouling out in the first overtime.
“I’m proud of how the other captains [Kass and junior forward/guard Katie Smith] pulled the team together on the fly,” she said.
Woodward was the only one to foul out for Orono, while five Wolverines fouled out.
“Schenck gave us one heck of a battle,” said Witham.
“They’ve got a really deep bench,” said Kass, who plays on a travel team with Schenck star Morgan Thompson. “They had four starters foul out [including Thompson], and [the rest of the Wolverines] stayed in the game.”
“I feel for Schenck because they played an amazing game,” said Kass. “They deserved to win, too.”
Ironically, Woodward was taking part in the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches’ regional free-throw competition on Sunday.
“The top shooter from each region goes to the senior all-stars [in March],” said Witham. “Jillian won the East regional with 43 out of 50.”