FORT WAYNE – A few years ago, Hanna Smith made a last-second, game-winning shot against Homestead.
But in an early-season girls basketball thriller Tuesday between two of the top five Class 3A teams, the Norwell senior was the decoy as sophomore Stephanie Conrad hit the game-winner with two seconds left in the visiting Knights’ 46-44 win over Concordia.
After timeouts from both teams with 5.9 seconds left, Smith ran out to the 3-point line as the inbounds pass came into Conrad near the elbow. Conrad turned, drove and made the layup for the No. 3 Knights as time ran out on the No. 4 Cadets.
“They weren’t going to give us that (Smith shot),” Norwell coach Eric Thornton said. “We wanted the ball in Stephanie’s hands. She just had a good advantage, one step, and she is quicker than most posts that might guard her. She got the advantage and got to the rim.”
Conrad had the option of handing the ball off, faking a handoff or driving to the basket. She chose option No. 3.
“It was mind-blowing,” Conrad said. “We had Hanna, and we were like ‘get the ball and get open.’ She zoomed out, and the (Concordia) girls were ‘she’s the shooter, she’s the shooter.’ Then I just caught the ball and took it in.”
Norwell (4-0) watched as Concordia (1-1) erased a 10-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. The Cadets came all the way back to tie the score at 44 with 15 seconds left on a jumper by Brooke Macke.
“You know Concordia is tougher than nails,” Thornton said. “A 10-point lead is nothing in a game like this. Nothing was easy tonight. That’s a credit to their defense.
“Our young kids gain a lot of confidence in a win like that. When you win a close one on the road against a team like Concordia it just gives your kids a boost. We know Homestead is next week. We are going to need to play better (against Homestead) then we did tonight, but it is a big shot in the arm going into a big game.”
Conrad led the Knights with 13 points, while Kelsey Beer had 12.
“We stayed strong and got it at the end,” Conrad said. “We learned we can stick together no matter what.”
The Cadets got 11 points from Dejour Young and nine from Rachel Kammeyer.
Foul trouble and turnovers helped dig the hole for Concordia. The Cadets’ Courtney Smith and Kammeyer each finished with four fouls. The team committed 17 turnovers.
“It is so early for us,” said Concordia coach Dave Miller, whose team had its first two games of the year rescheduled because of the success of the volleyball team. “We didn’t quit, and I was proud of them that way.
“Courtney has to be in the game for us to be the most effective. Her sitting so much obviously hurts us offensively. Then Kammeyer is in foul trouble, so our point guard is sitting, and we are adjusting that way. If you get two kids with that much experience sitting with foul trouble, it affects you.”