STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
Marli Andersen didn’t need to be the first option for the final play—she only had to be prepared for when the ball eventually landed in her hands.
The junior guard seized the moment, draining a well-defended jumper at the buzzer to give the Summit Lady Spartans a 42-41 win over the hosting Franklin Lady Rebels in a District 11-AAA matchup Friday evening at Franklin High School.
The game-winner gave Andersen the unique status of having scored the first and last basket of Friday’s thriller which proved to be a nail-biter every step of the way.
“I think everyone in the gym is worn out, not just the players,” Lady Spartans head coach Kari Goodwin quipped after the game. “I respect (Franklin) Coach (John) Wild so much. We’ve helped each other throughout the season as we do every year. We both know, it’s a matter of which team shows up, which team decides to execute.
“What you saw tonight was just battling every possession.”
It took a few minutes for both teams to warm up offensively, with the action taking off once Andersen drained a three to give Summit an early 3-0 lead. The corner shot was one of 17 three-pointers converted by both teams in a momentum-swaying district battle.
A key strategy of the Lady Spartans was to contain prodigious freshman Sydney Ryan, who still managed to sneak in 13 points for the Lady Rebels. The extra attention paid to her came at a cost, as freshman Bergen Allee—who led Franklin with 17 points—managed to hit a big three (nailing five on the night) anytime Summit threatened to pull away.
Allee was one of three Lady Rebels to score in double figures, and in fact one of only four to even score on the night. Kate O’Neil contributed with 10 points and three rebounds, while also playing a key role in containing sophomore center Elle Colson.
The one Lady Spartan that couldn’t be stopped was Taylor Penning, who has spent her entire high school career wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. The junior guard led all scorers with 23 points, all but two coming from behind the arc.
For more than seven minutes, she was also the lone scoring presence in a stunningly quiet 4th quarter for the Lady Spartans.
Penning hit a three following a huge offensive rebound by senior point guard Taylor Limprevil (8 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists) to give Summit a 37-31 lead. It was the last bit of offensive production from Summit, as Franklin went on a 10-0 tear capped by a Ryan three-pointer following an offensive rebound of her previous three-point attempt give the Rebels the lead, which they would later extend to four with 1:19 to go.
A momentary defensive lapse by Franklin was all the room Penning needed to convert the last of her seven three-pointers, pulling Summit within one heading into the final minute.
Goodwin used the timeout to draw a new defensive scheme which proved pivotal.
“We threw something in defensively that we haven’t used all year,” Goodwin revealed of the late strategy. “We made a concentrated effort to take away their threats.”
Doran—playing out of position in handling the ball with senior Jillian King still recovering from injuries sustained in a Dec. 21st win over Independence—was double-teamed off the inbound, unbeknownst to Ryan who raced up court and didn’t turn around in time for a pass that was picked off by Andersen.
“It’s a challenge bringing up the ball because I haven’t done so in the past,” Doran said of her new responsibilities, which she first assumed during the Middle Tennessee Invitational Tournament over the holiday break. “But with Jillian down, we all have to step up.”
It was one of two big defensive stops late by Summit. The latter came in the game’s closing seconds, with Penning picking off a long pass from O’Neil down court to Allee.
“We stuck to the gameplan. We had to shut down Sydney, and then later Bergen,” Penning said. “We just made clutch plays to pull it out. Late in the game, coach was telling us to anticipate the pass. When I saw the ball go up, I anticipated as best as I could.”
She couldn’t have executed any better, even if the same couldn’t be said of Summit’s final play out of the timeout. It didn’t exactly go as scripted, but still somehow worked out.
“We told (Andersen) on that time out if we go to her—which we did—to be ready. They took away Taylor, they took away Ellie inside, so we went to our third option, which was Marli.”
Andersen drove in just deep enough to find her sweet spot, setting up for the final shot which came in the form of a mid-range jumper as time expired.
“At the end of the day, it just comes down to making big plays and taking what the defense gives you.” Andersen said of her game-winner. “I have to give credit to Taylor for getting that last steal. She doesn’t do that, we don’t get that last possession to win the game.”
In surviving Franklin’s late surge, Summit moves to 5-1 in district play, giving the Lady Spartans a share of first place along with Page and Dickson County, both of whom also won on Friday.
Fittingly, they represent the next two opponents for Summit, who will first face Page at home on Tuesday.
“This is kind of entering the gauntlet, coming back into the New Year playing Franklin, then Page, then Dickson,” Goodwin notes. “Page is strong, Dickson shoots the lights out. We just have to play our best game to beat these teams.
“If we ever take a night off, we might as well just chalk it up as a loss. If we bring our A-game, we’re in the hunt with everyone.”
Franklin (8-8/3-3 in district play) remains at home for its next two games, first facing Dickson County on Tuesday.