What a way to go out.
In the final Catholic League game of Seton Keough coach Trish Cook's 17-year career, her top-seeded and No. 6 Gators pulled out an overtime thriller, defeating third-seeded and No. 7 St. Mary's, 46-44, to win the league tournament at the College of Notre Dame yesterday.
Tied at 44, Seton Keough's Michele Pasta hit a 10-footer off the glass with 41 seconds left to give the Gators a 2-point lead. The Saints had one final shot to win it, but a Janet Tadle 20-footer fell short at the buzzer.
"They were psyched up for this one, not because of me, but because they wanted it," said Cook, who coached the Gators to their fifth straight tournament crown. "Our seniors wanted to go out and win their fourth tournament in four years. You're just never satisfied when you know there's more to accomplish."
The Seton Keough defense accomplished a lot, holding St. Mary's to 28 percent from the field (15-for-53), and one of five in the overtime.
Said Gators center Chris Politz (14 points): "I think we felt we had something to prove. We were supposed to be the underdog, but we wanted to win this for our seniors and our coach."
By virtue of their regular-season league championship, the Gators (18-4) had already clinched a spot in Sunday's Metro Classic at the Baltimore Arena, where they'll face No. 1 Western.
For St. Mary's (19-9) and outgoing coach Carmine Blades, however, this game brought the season to a close.
"I couldn't ask for any more than what they gave me," said Blades, whose team split with Seton Keough during the regular season. "These games with Keough always go down to the wire. Near the end, our shots just wouldn't fall in, but that will happen in an emotional game."
Midway through the third quarter, however, the Saints' shots fell. They turned a halftime tie into a 33-29 lead at the end of three, as Candace Blair (eight points) hit a follow-up layup and drew the foul with 1 minute, 48 seconds left in the quarter.
But the fourth quarter belonged to the Gators. Melissa Cuneo (14 points) hit a 10-footer and Kelly Hines followed with a three-pointer to give Seton-Keough a 34-33 lead with 6:38 left.
After the teams traded baskets for the next several minutes, St. Mary's Tadle hit a 10-footer off the glass to give her team a 42-41 lead with 48 seconds to play. With 21 seconds left, Politz hit one of two free throws to send the game into overtime.