Makenzie Wentling's approach to life suggests it's easy to be humble. But the way the Carey junior came through in the clutch Saturday night, it was the finishing touch for a proud moment for the Blue Devils.
Wentling hit two foul shots with 14.6 seconds remaining to stretch Carey's lead to four points in what would become a 41-36 win over New Riegel for a Division IV sectional championship at Columbian.
In the nightcap, second-seeded Arcadia held off Calvert's second-half charge and knocked off the Senecas 59-48.
"Not very good," the smiling Wentling said in self-assessment of her ability at the foul line. "I make them in practice, but I seem to choke when I'm in a game."
Wentling missed two before hitting a third try from the line with 5:36 left in the game to pull her club to within one of the Blue Jackets at 34-33.
New Riegel (17-6) pushed the margin to three when Lauren Ladd scored off a Taylor Kirian feed, but freshman Sydney Wentling tied it with her third and final 3-pointer with 4:58 to go.
It stayed that way for a little more than three minutes before Logan Johnson came away with an offensive rebound and scored for a 38-36 Carey lead with 1:48 to go.
"I told the kids when it comes down in a tight game, two really good teams, it's a possession here, a rebound" said New Riegel coach Steve Lucius. "When it was tied and they shot a shot, two of our kids had both hands on the basketball and sort of took it away from each other. It ended up in their kid's hands and she scores a basket to give them a two-point lead."
New Riegel couldn't counter and Carey couldn't expand, so it stayed that way until Makenzie Wentling drew a foul and headed to the line after a timeout.
"Usually I talk about scenarios at the foul line, if we make one, if we miss," said Carey coach Phil Vaughn, whose 20-4 Blue Devils face Fremont St. Joe in Thursday's second district semifinal at Lakota. "I didn't want her to think about anything but making the shot."
"I was thinking of course they fouled me after I missed my first (two)," Makenzie Wentling said. "Luckily I made those last two to put a cushion on the win."
New Riegel represented the lone loss for Carey in the Blue Devils' Midland Athletic League championship. "But that was a long time ago," Vaughn said.
This meeting was a tough-and-tumble struggle that saw Carey go on a 10-4 run in the last four minutes of the first half for a 17-14 lead.
Sydney Wentling hit a 3-pointer and Makenzie Wentling turned a steal into a layup for an eight-point edge to start the second half.
Then New Riegel went up-tempo behind sophomore point guard Kara Scherger. After Kirian scored on a post move, Scherger hit four straight shots and had a drive and feed to Ladd for another hoop in a 13-0 burst for a 27-22 lead. Sydney Wentling's two treys on the way to a team-high 11 points brought the Blue Devils back.
"We wanted to pick it up in the first half but we had some foul trouble," Lucius said. "It kind of got us back into it in the second half, but we got maybe a little tired, too. We expended a lot of energy.
"I'm not sure what happened - you had the lead and then you didn't have the lead," he said. "They had the ball, we had it, they had it, I just felt like the next team that scores is going to have a real advantage and it was them."
Johnson had eight points and Makenzie Wentling seven for the winners. Hannah Tong was limited to five points, nine below her team-leading average, but she was the game's top rebounder with 10.
Scherger had 10 points while Taylor Arbogast and Ladd were contributing eight each for New Riegel.
Arcadia will take a 20-4 record into Thursday's 6:15 semifinal against Toledo Christian. The Redskins, champions of the Blanchard Valley Conference advanced on the strength of a first-half blitz that knocked the Senecas back on the heels.
A 17-7 finish to the first quarter gave Arcadia a 21-11 lead. The Redskins added a 13-0 run over a span of 2:38 in the second period on the way to a 37-15 halftime bulge.
Except for a short period in which sophomore post Molly Glick took a seat due to foul trouble, coach Randy Baker looks to his starters first, last and always.
The up-tempo brand of ball was clicking, especially in the first half, when the Redskins hit 15-of-26 from the field.
"With our press, even if we don't get the ball, I think we were able to get them to play a little more out of the pace they wanted to play," Baker said of his team's first-half success. "It was a combination of us playing well and hitting shots and them being cold. I think they missed a lot of shots underneath that they normally make. That helped."
At the heart of the Redskin attack was senior guard Miranda Palmer, who finished with 27 points and four assists. Glick added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Courtney Cramer contributed eight points.
Though Baker pulled back the pressure defense, his club had anything but a coast to victory. After hitting just 6-of-26 from the field in the first half, the Senecas knocked down 12-of-21 in the second session. Six of the makes were 3-pointers.
"We missed a lot of shots in the first half and they didn't," Calvert coach Tim Ritzler said. "But I'm proud of my girls. We could have given up and quit, down 22 points at half.
"We just told them to take your shot and go after it," he said. "Megan (Funkhouser) got hot there for a little bit, Kate (Brickner) hit some shots and we were able to get some things going.
"We were down 12 going into the fourth quarter and when we get hot, we can make up 12 points in a hurry," he said. "We didn't quite have enough.
"Miranda Palmer, she's a terrific player and when she gets on, there's nothing you're going to do about it."
Funkhouser led the Senecas with 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers in the second half. Brickner added one from long range and Calvert also picked up six points from Nicole Bickley in the third period rush.
"We knew where their shooters were, but we didn't do a very good job of coming up on them," Baker said. "We had just enough of a cushion in the first half to make it.
"You saw four teams play tonight who all could very well have been district final teams," he said. "The worst team here had seven losses. I think if any of the teams from here were to go to a sectional somewhere else, they'd be seeded. This was a great sectional."
Olivia Smith was able to get inside the Redskin defense for 11 points and Bickley totaled 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.