Even though it was the first game of the Brant high school season, it felt like the playoffs.
In a matchup featuring last season’s girls basketball champions, the St. John’s College Green Eagles, and runners-up, the Assumption College School Lions, ACS prevailed 51-49 in overtime on Thursday night in front of a packed Assumption gymnasium.
The Lions Sara Harris hit the decisive jump shot with just 18 seconds left in a four-minute overtime period.
“It totally felt like a playoff game,” Harris said after the victory. “It always is between our two teams. We were thinking that way from the very beginning.”
The see-saw battle could not be settled in four quarters, with the game knotted at 41-41 following the end of regulation time.
But the scales were tipping back and forth throughout the game.
Green Eagles star Kendra VanLeeuwen, who finished with a team-high 16 points, hit a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the first quarter to give the Eagles a 14-13 lead.
The Eagles built that into a 28-25 lead at the half.
The teams played a low-scoring third quarter, with the Lions Abby Heron, who finished with a game-high 20 points, hitting a pair of free throws to tie the score 33-33 as the quarter ended.
The Lions roared out of the gate in the fourth quarter and built a 41-37 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.
But the Green Eagles put up a wall on defence and got a pair of key jumpers from Lauren Dubois during the next two minutes to knot the score at 41-41 with three minutes left to play.
Both teams started calling strategic timeouts as regulation time wore down hoping to break the deadlock, but the Lions and Green Eagles played tight defence and preserved the tie.
In overtime, VanLeeuwen grabbed the jump ball and sunk a three-pointer to give the Green Eagles a 44-41 lead with only 12 seconds elapsed.
But the Lions Rikayla Baldin and Emily Gill responded with a pair of baskets to regain a 45-44 lead for Assumption.
VanLeeuwen then hit a free throw and Rebecca Dabor nailed a basket to put St. John’s up 47-45 with 2:27 left on the clock.
The Lions Jerika Baldin responded by running the length of the court and draining a layup to tie the game 47-47 just 10 seconds later.
Heron and VanLeeuwen traded a jump shot and two free-throws to tie the game 49-49 with just 56 seconds to play.
After trying a couple of set plays following time outs, Jerika Baldin found Harris open under the basket for an easy layup that sealed the match 51-49 for the Lions.
After stopping the Green Eagles final attempt to score, the team celebrated its thrilling start to the season.
Elsewhere on opening day, the North Park Collegiate Trojans downed the Brantford Collegiate Institute Mustangs 57-28, while the Paris District High School Panthers defeated the Pauline Johnson Collegiate Thunderbirds 33-30.
In junior basketball, the Green Eagles downed the Lions 30-20, the Panthers beat the T-Birds 46-13 and the Trojans beat the Mustangs 51-23.