This certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty and Park Center needed 12 extra minutes to do it, but the Pirates scrapped and clawed and finally found a way to victory, beating Marshall 73-71 in triple-overtime for the Class 3A championship, the first basketball title of any sort in school history.
Park Center did it without it star player, Cayla McMorris, who fouled out late in regulation. They did it without an outside game, making just four of 33 three-point attempts. They even did it without drivers’ licenses: no player on the floor for the Pirates at the end of the game was out of 10th grade. In fact, four of them — guards Danielle Schaub and Ann Simonet, forward Feyisayo Ayobamidele and center Mikayla Hayes — were freshman.
“That was a real war of attrition,” Park Center coach Chris VanderHyde said. “The players we had in there have performed like that all year, so I wasn’t surprised. They worked their butts off.”
For much of the second half, getting to one overtime seemed a tall order, much less three.
The Pirates were their usual annoying selves on defense, forcing normally sound Marshall into an uncharacteristic 30 turnovers. But the offense was half of what it should be. They scored points off of turnovers, as they always do, but the shooting was abysmal.
“It was just one of those games,” Schaub said. “The shots weren’t falling, so we had to focus on other things.”
It was Schaub, at 5-foot-4 the smallest player on the court, who hit the game’s biggest shot. Park Center had rallied back from a nine-point deficit in the second half, cutting the lead to 60-58, when McMorris fouled out with 20.1 seconds left in the game. The Pirates most dependable scorer and undeniable leader was no longer available.
No matter. When a play designed for Hayes broke down, Schaub acted on instinct, dribbling into the lane and hitting a floater at time expired, sending the game to overtime.
“I’ve seen Danielle hit that shot 100 times in practice so I knew it was good,” VanderHyde said.
Marshall scored first in all three overtimes, yet the Tigers could not make any of this leads stick.
Hayes tied the game with a short jumper at the end of the first extra session. A steal and layup by Simonet, who finished with a game-high 26 points, capped the second overtime. And Ayobamidele had a big basket and a bigger steal to seal the victory.
“We couldn’t lose, not with Cayla on the bench,” Schaub said. “With everything she’s done for this program, we wanted to do it for her.”
McMorris, a University of Wisconsin recruit, said it was difficult to sit, but that never doubted they’d come through.
“I knew they could do it,” she said. “I believed in them.”