FORT WAYNE – Leos Keanna Gary made her first – and only – basket in the fourth quarter and still earned MVP honors. Thats the kind of game it was for the Lions as they captured their second straight ACAC tournament title in a defensive battle with Garrett 36-33 on Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
The 6-foot-1 Gary had six points, 16 rebounds and was a defensive presence inside that helped keep the Railroaders off-balance. She finished the three-game ACAC tournament run with 45 points and 31 rebounds. The MVP is based on the entire tournament.
It is a great accomplishment, Gary said. To be able to claim a championship back-to-back and three in four years is truly a blessing.
The only reason Leo wasnt celebrating four straight conference tournament titles is because of a last-second shot loss to Garrett in 2011.
It goes back to their mental toughness, Leo coach Carrie Shappell said. I looked out there and there was never a point where I felt like they had a doubt. I could see in their eyes that they had faith in what we were doing.
Gary, an Akron recruit, and teammates Taylor Seiss were again the focal points of Garretts triangle-and-two defense. For the most part it worked as Seiss had only eight points. Gary was 1 for 3 from the field and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.
It is really tough and frustrating to play against the triangle-and-two, Gary said. I feel like I cant offensively do what I need to to help the team. But I have trust and faith in them to get the job done, and they proved that to us today.
Jenna Beer scored a game-high 12 points, and Toby Carman got a couple of key offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and scored four points.
Leo trailed most of the first half but was down only 20-19 at halftime. The Lions took a small lead, never more than four points, in the second half and played keep-away in the fourth.
Thats the whole premise to that, Garrett coach Bob Lapadot said of the defense. You deny the two players you want to chase, and you dare the others to make shots.
The Lions (13-3) held Garrett (11-5) to 10-of-35 shooting (29 percent) from the field and avenged a 57-50 regular-season loss to the Railroaders last month.
It is good revenge, Beer said. We slowed it down on offense, and we controlled the game. We just had to have confidence, we had poise, and we believed we could do it.
Garrett got 12 points and 14 rebounds from Brandi Dawson and 10 points each from Taylor Smith and Katie Wisel. Garrett held Leo to 12-of-45 shooting (27 percent).
We had great shots right there in the lane to build the lead, and we just missed them, Lapadot said. If you hold a team to 36 points, you think you have a good chance to win games.