RICHMOND – Crystal Lake Central’s Paige Celestin-Dowell played heroine for the undefeated Tigers on Tuesday night.
With four seconds remaining on the game clock and down by one, Celestin-Dowell heaved a desperation 3 from well beyond the arc as Richmond-Burton (2-3) was fouling with two fouls to give. Celestin-Dowell was fouled on the shot and was awarded the three crucial free throws.
“I just had to pretend that I was in the gym at practice,” said Celestin-Dowell, who scored 11 points in the Tigers’ 41-39 road victory over the Rockets. “I was just a little nervous out there, but when I stepped to the line I just knew I had to block out those feelings and get the job done.”
The home crowd at Richmond-Burton groaned as each of Celestin-Dowell’s shots fell. When the third went through, the Rockets settled for a last-second 3-point shot that clanked off the backboard.
“When we had the ball with 10 seconds I had a play drawn up,” Tigers coach Paul Lichtenheld said. “But with four seconds on the clock, we thought they were going to foul us as soon as we got it, so I just yelled for my girls to shoot as soon as they touched it.”
At the half, the game look decidedly different. R-B was ahead by three because of poor shooting from the Tigers (5-0), but Lichtenheld told his girls to continue to shoot. He didn’t make any changes but knew that some of the breaks were going to go his team’s way.
The Tigers opened the third quarter shooting 6-for-6 and went on a 12-6 run to take the lead back. The lead for the Tigers reached 10 at one point before the Rockets were able to reel it back in.
“A lot of the credit goes to the experience that these girls bring,” Lichtenheld said. “And at halftime, I told them to keep looking to shoot because the shots that they missed in the first half were going to have to start falling in the second. Paige (Celestin-Dowell) didn’t shoot well in the first, but I never told her to stop shooting. Some things just have to work themselves out.”
The game itself was exciting as there were 12 lead changes and five ties throughout. The Rockets’ game plan consisted of lots of inside scoring and they dominated underneath the basket all night long, almost scoring at will at times with great passes from the guards to their post players.
The Rockets scored an impressive 29 of their 39 points on shots coming from underneath the basket. Six-foot senior Andrea Fox scored 10 points in the paint on 5-of-11 shooting while Samantha Boettjer added eight in the paint.
“This was our best game shot wise,” R-B coach Courtney LuDois said. “We run a lot of screen to open up the post game and we are always looking to work it inside at any given moment. It is our strong suit for sure.”
While the low-scoring options performed well for the Rockets, LuDois wasn’t as pleased with the rebounding and turnovers throughout the game.
“I told my girls after the game that one play does not define a game,” LuDois said. “All of the rebounds that we missed and the turnovers kind of poisoned us down the stretch.”