CHARLOTTESVILLE — Down 50-47 with less than four minutes remaining in the Class 2A Sectional 41 championship, Knightstown didn’t waver from the game plan that had sustained it for the first 28 minutes: get the ball in the paint and get to the free throw line.
Panthers senior center Emily Thomas scored six of her game-high 24 points down the stretch during a 12-5 run as the visitors secured a 59-55 title win.
The Knightstown (18-4) blitz marked the final swing in a back-and-forth affair. Down 35-26 at the break, 2A No. 7 Eastern Hancock (17-5) surged to a 41-40 lead late in the third quarter. The second half featured four lead changes and three ties, and there were six lead changes and eight ties overall.
“I just think it was a game of momentum,” said Knightstown coach Dawn Basicker, who led the program to its second-straight sectional title. “As a fan, it had to be an awesome game to watch, because as a coach it was amazing.
“It was fun, that’s all I can say. Back-to-back is awesome.”
Unranked Knightstown advanced to the Speedway Regional, where it will face No. 2 Ritter (19-3) Saturday at noon. No. 1 Heritage Christian (23-1)-Monrovia (12-12) is the morning semifinal, with the championship at 8 p.m.
If Ritter coaches view Knightstown’s sectional film, they’ll see an abundance of dump-ins to the post, offensive rebounds and put-backs. Thomas and Knightstown forwards Macy Burton and Brooke Vise combined for 37 rebounds; EH’s starting frontline totaled four rebounds.
The Royals, meanwhile, countered by pushing the ball on offense and pressure on defense. EH, which had only five turnovers in the contest, forced 22 Knightstown giveaways.
Eastern Hancock’s effective pace allowed it to rally from an early 10-2 deficit. Shelby Mourey and Lauren Harmon hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 15-3 run that gave EH a 17-13 lead heading into the second quarter.