“I wanted this really bad. I wanted this more than anything.”
Columbia City senior Sierra Burlage got what she wanted Friday night when the Lady Eagles basketball team held their final home game of the regular season.
Five seniors in total (Burlage, Anna O’Dell, Corinna Raypole, Kayla Dunn, Maddie Hinen) helped Columbia City ride the roller coaster against Huntington North. After the Lady Vikings forced overtime, Burlage propelled her team into the postseason next week on a winning note with a 21-point game and the win 61-56.
“This was a big game going into sectional,” Burlage noted. “We needed this game, I feel, in order to play well.”
The game had a feel of postseason roars and high pressure possessions.
“Very exciting,” Columbia City head coach Amy Shearer said. “A sectional atmosphere going into overtime and pressure situations. I felt like we stepped up and made big free throws when we needed to.”
After surrendering a lead in the fourth quarter that was high as 10 points, Columbia City (10-9) shot 12-for-15 from the free throw line in the overtime period.
Leading 59-56 with 2.0 seconds left, the game clinching shots at the line came from the night’s game-high scorer in Burlage.
The senior six-foot forward finished a 9-for-12 (75 percent) night from the field with two free throws.
“She’s been our vocal leader throughout the season,” Shearer said of Burlage. “She had the girls ready to play tonight. She wanted this bad.”
Columbia City’s offense revolved entirely around Burlage in the first half. Her 10 rebounds for the game led to Burlage scoring all seven points for Columbia City in a 7-7 tie after one quarter.
Burlage reeled off City’s first 11 points of the game. It wasn’t until the 3:29 mark — with Burlage out of the game — that a Hannah Schnorr shot in the post got the other Lady Eagles in the scorebook.
A poor shooting half for both teams kept the score low with the Lady Eagles up 17-11 at the break.
The lead grew to as much as 13 points in a high scoring third quarter. Dunn and junior Sarah Opliger combined for nine points in the third. Opliger had 10 of her 12 points come in the second half while Dunn finished with 11 points.
Huntington (9-10) carried the momentum into the fourth quarter on a buzzer beater from one of three shots from behind the arc by Erin Rethlake.
Even with the lead at double digits, 36-26, Columbia City struggled to halt the Lady Vikings rally.
Huntington outscored the Eagles 19-11 in the fourth quarter including another three-point basket by Rethlake that knotted the game up 45-45 at the end of regulation.
“I was pretty confident in our kids,” Shearer commented after the end of the fourth quarter. “They came over and didn’t act like the end of the world was upon them. They looked at it like ‘we got four more minutes, lets get out there.’ They weren’t going to fold.”
Columbia City fought off early shooting problems to finish 20-for-46 (43 percent). Huntington fell below .500 for the season plagued with 18 turnovers.
The Lady Eagles take an emotional senior night win into the class 3A sectional on their home court Wednesday.
“It was a big win for us,” Shearer said. “We’ve been on the brink. Tonight, they didn’t worry about what mistakes were made and they just played.
“We’re looking forward to sectional.”