The Lady Lions (20-9) had a chance to tie the game with 9.2 seconds remaining after Morrison missed a crucial free-throw on the other end. Lakeview coach John Carrick put the ball in the hands of Hannah Grogan, who led all scorers with 24 points. But, Grogan’s final attempt bounced off the rim, and the Eagles held off in the final seconds for a dramatic win.
“This is unbelievable,” said Mount Paran coach Tab Griffin. “We’ve got two seniors, and I wanted them to experience something they had not experienced yet.”
The Lady Eagles’ attention now moves on to their Round 2 opponent, undefeated Holy Innocents. The Lady Bears, who advanced to Round 2 with an 83-29 win over Savannah Country Day, already own a victory over Mount Paran this season. Holy Innocents beat the Lady Eagles 54-37 on Dec. 3.
“I probably won’t sleep a lot in the next 48 hours,” Griffin said.
Emily Spillane scored eight points, including some timely flashes under the goal, while Renee VanHorn scored all of her nine points in the second half. Griffin saw a collective effort from his team after the offense was limited to Morrison’s ability early. He credited halftime adjustments for the way the Eagles were able to force turnovers and start fastbreaks after heading into halftime down 23-22.
“We talked in halftime about how we gave up too many 3’s,” Griffin said. “When they missed we also gave them too many second chance points, so we kind of extended our defense out and made them put the ball on the floor and beat us off the dribble.”
The new game plan seemed to work, as the Eagles (20-5) took their first lead, 25-24, on a Spillane jumper with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter. Spillane’s field goal sparked an 8-0 run, and the Eagles led 38-31 at the end of the period.
Lakeview fought back after Welch fouled out and Morrison, a freshman, committed three consecutive fouls. Leading 51-49 with 15 seconds left, Mount Paran’s Caroline Ethridge stole a pass in the lane to help the Eagles pull away.
Morrison’s inexperience might have nearly cost the Eagles late, but Griffin made it clear they wouldn’t have been there without her.
“She’s a stud,” Griffin said. “She plays beyond her age. We’re at the point now where she has to take over some games for us.”