By MICHELLE GARMON
LAPORTE — Bailee Webb’s left-handed runner off the glass lifted Frankton’s No. 11-ranked Eagles to a thrilling 35-34 Class 2A LaPorte Semistate victory over No. 4 Fairfield Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles’ second semistate championship in three years earned Frankton a second trip to the 2A state championship game at Gainsbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis next Saturday. The Eagles (23-5) will play the winner of University and Forest Park, who are battling in the southern semistate later this afternoon.
A three-point play by sophomore Emma Sperry gave Frankton a 23-15 lead at the 4:54 mark of the third quarter. The Falcons used an 8-2 run, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Morgan Gawthrop, to pull within 25-23. But Sperry’s offensive rebound basket just before the buzzer gave the Eagles a 27-23 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Bailey Willard’s 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter cut the lead to 27-26. Lauryn Bates then scored six straight points for Frankton with her two free throws giving the Eagles a 33-29 lead with 3:29 remaining in the game. Fairfield’s Brea Garber, who had been held in check by Webb and Bella Dean for most of the game, got loose to knock down a 3-pointer and then scored inside to give the Falcons a 34-33 lead with 2:01 remaining in the game. It was Fairfield’s first lead since they led 13-9 in the second quarter.
Bates missed a baseline 3 and Willard rebounded. Bates and Willard then exchanged steals with Fairfield having possession of the ball with 1:29 remaining in the game. The Falcons took timeouts with 1:29 and 1:07 left to play. Following the second timeout, the Eagles forced a five-second call to regain possession with :51.9 remaining. Frankton worked the ball and had a pass inside nearly stolen, but the Falcons’ Morgan Gawthrop was unable to coral the ball before it went out of bounds and the Eagles lined up for a baseline out-of-bounds play with :22.5. The ball ended up in Webb’s hands on the right baseline. The right-handed guard drove the baseline, stepped through and kissed the ball off the glass with her left hand to put Frankton up 35-34 with :16.5 left.
Fairfield took its final timeout with :11.3 remaining in the game. But Frankton’s defense did not allow an open look and Cagney Utterback forced a contested 3 by Willard that went out of bounds off a Fairfield player with :00.5 remaining. The Eagles through the ball to halfcourt where Webb chased it down, grabbed it and let the clock run out and the celebration begin.
Sperry scored five points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave the Eagles a 7-5 lead at the quarter break. Garber netted a 3 to put Fairfield up 8-7 and a basket by Delana Geiger gave the Falcons a 13-9 advantage at the 2:46 mark of the second period. Frankton then put together an 11-0 run. Sperry scored eight straight points and Bates added a free throw as the Eagles ended the first half on a 9-0 run to take an 18-13 lead into halftime. Webb’s offensive rebound basket upped the lead to 20-13 less than a minute into the third quarter.
Garber meshed two free throws, but Sperry countered with her three-point play to give the Eagles that eight-point, 23-15, lead at the 4:54 mark of the third quarter.
Sperry led the Eagles with 15 points and nine rebounds. Bates added 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Webb finished with six points, two rebounds and a steal and Utterback rounded out the scoring with two points. Amaya Collins did not score by had five rebounds, while Dean had two rebounds and three steals.
Garber led all scorers with 16 points but was just 5 of 14 from the field. She also had five rebounds. Gawthrop added nine points and four rebounds, while Willard added three points. Geiger rounded out the Falcons scoring with two points and had 13 boards. Fairfield were missing two players — a starter and its sixth man — who went down with injuries in December. The Falcons finished their season 24-4.
*** This story with added quotes and a sidebar story will appear in Tuesday’s edition of the Elwood Call-Leader