The Bluejay girls had one last chance to pick up a Valley win after a season of strong efforts, but things didn’t look good after a two-point second quarter of Tuesday’s Senior Night game put them in an 18-12 hole.
But Merrill worked a slight 11-10 edge in the third, then cut loose with an 16-2 run over the middle 4-1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter to grab a 41-34 lead. Rapids closed with a 10-3 burst in the final 1:06 to send the game into overtime tied 44-44, and overcame an early 48-44 OT deficit to win a 55-50 contest.
“Even though we came out a little flat, the girls never gave up,” MHS coach Ross Reincke said. “They built that nice lead and really worked to close it out. I’m not going to sleep tonight. I’m going to think it over in my head 58 times.
“That team beat us by 18 the last time we played them. We’ve taken serious strides since the beginning of the year. If we play that way in the playoffs, I think we’ll be all right.”
Morgan Marnholtz kicked off that 16-point run with a pair of free throws, and she ended the quarter by connecting on 6-of-8 attempts. Mariah Turenne hit back-to-back three-pointers in less than a minute, the second with 2:37 left gave Merrill’s its first lead since 1:35 left in the first quarter. Marnholtz sandwiched four foul shots around a dish to Starr Krenzke for an easy lay-up to give MHS its 41-34 lead.
But Carissa Vruwink hit her only basket of the game, a three-pointer with 1:06 left to give the Raiders a shot. Rapids’ 6’ 1” Victoria Hansen did the rest, scoring seven of her game-high 34 points in the last 57 seconds, mostly after offensive rebounds. She narrowly beat the final buzzer when she dropped in the game-tying shot.
Turenne hit a free throw and followed it with another three-pointer with 2:33 to go to put Merrill up 48-44, and Marnholtz converted two more foul shots to give the Jays a 50-49 lead with 1:24 left. But Hansen put back another offensive rebound, and teammates Maycie Wiernik and Alyssa Huglen made four late free throws to seal the win.
Bluejay contributions came from Maddix Bonnell (12 p, 8 r), Turenne (17 p), Marnholtz (9 p, 4 a), Krenzke (4 p, 7 r), Emily Page (4 p, 3 a), Malayna Beyer (2 p) and Kennedy Soderbeg (2 p). Hansen also grabbed 15 rebounds.
Merrill finished the regular season at 2-10 in the WVC and 5-16 overall. Rapids was 5-7 and 8-14. The Jays host Medford (4-8, 6-14) at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.