PARK HILLS – Central guard Skyler Amonette received an inbounds pass with 6 seconds to play in overtime, and dribbled swiftly toward the top of the key.
The senior calmly drained a tying 3-pointer as time expired to highlight an already memorable girls championship game Saturday night at the Central Christmas Tournament.
“We honestly hadn’t even talked about me or anybody taking the shot," she said. "We just knew we had to get the ball up the floor, and my teammates had faith in me to take the shot,” she said.
Amonette notched nine points during the first extra period to help the top-seeded Lady Rebels overcome a 7-point deficit against Steelville.
She ended with a team-high 32 points while eclipsing 1,000 for her career, and Central captured its fifth consecutive title with a 79-68 victory.
“We came out during the first overtime and we were down by seven immediately, but my team remained calm and didn’t hang our heads," Amonette said. "That’s the biggest thing that I believe helped us win. I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Central (12-1) posted a 15-4 scoring advantage in double overtime after the clutch triple created a 64-64 tie.
Steelville (7-3) turned to Hannah Cottrell down the stretch for her ability to attack through the lane. The senior point guard finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds, scoring 14 of her team’s 17 points after regulation.
Cottrell capped the fourth quarter by sinking her lone 3-pointer with 2.5 remaining to square the score at 51-51. She made 10-of-18 free throws during extra time, and was 14-of-25 overall.
After Central fell behind 58-51 in overtime, Amonette narrowed the gap to 59-58 on back-to-back steals that resulted in transition layups midway through the period.
Freshman Sophia Horton dropped in a putback attempt to bring Central back within 62-61, but Cottrell sank two foul shots to restore a 3-point margin.
The Lady Rebels frequently probed inside to extend a lead during the second overtime. They went 11-of-12 from the stripe, and sealed the win after a bad Steelville pass led to an Amonette 3-point play that made it 73-66 with 1:19 on the clock.
Each team established stout defense to begin the action. Central committed eight turnovers in the first quarter while Steelville had seven.
Karissa Belfield, who contributed 15 points and six rebounds to the win, recorded the first five points of the game. But the Lady Cardinals effectively worked the ball inside to gain a 13-10 edge at the end of the first period.
The Lady Rebels gained two brief leads during the second quarter, but struggled to limit a balanced Steelville attack.
Steelville enjoyed a slight 26-24 advantage at halftime behind its balanced attack after the Lady Rebels briefly held two separate leads. Seven players from each team registered points before the break.
Central moved in front 30-29 midway through the third quarter as Amonette slashed into the paint and dished to a wide-open Callie Thurston for a layup. Thurston posted seven points and seven rebounds in the win.
Caitlyn Holmes battled in the post for a game-high 14 rebounds, and helped the Lady Rebels stay ahead through the remainder of the third. She added 16 points to complete a double-double.
Central tightened its full-court pressure in the fourth quarter to force more turnovers. Holmes recaptured a 40-38 lead with 4:46 remaining as a pair of free throws marked her first points of the second half.
Cottrell converted a floater in the lane with 20 seconds to play, but Holmes stretched the difference to 51-48 from the foul line.
Abby Booker made four shots from the perimeter to notch 12 points for the Lady Cardinals.