Bentz’s FTs help Knights trip Clips

NORTHROP – Effie Bentz stepped to the free throw line with Martin Luther trailing Cleveland by one point with only 3 seconds remaining in regulation Monday night.

Bentz calmly swooshed both ends of the one-and-one situation to seal the hometown Knights’ 52-51 Valley Conference Showcase basketball victory over the Clippers in Northrop.

Oddly enough, when Bentz toed the stripe, Martin Luther did not have a player in any of its four rebounding spots.

“That’s how much confidence we have in her (Bentz’s) ability to make free throws,” Knights’ head coach Leslie Wokasch said with a grin. “After picking up a foul on our previous trip to the line, it was probably better not to risk it.”

After Hunter Payne’s 12-foot jumper in the lane knotted the game at 49-all with 1:43 left in the game, teammate Amber Schulz swung a one-point lead to Martin Luther by hitting the second of a two-shot foul at the 22-second juncture.

Cleveland then fouled at the 9-second mark to create a one-and-one situation and the strategy paid dividends as the Martin Luther cager missed the front end before a Knight rebounder was called for a foul in pursuit of the loose carom.

Clippers’ power forward Miranda Corrow, who produced a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, calmly stepped to the free throw line at the other end and drained both tosses to swing a 51-50 lead to the visitors with only 7 seconds left.

Bentz, however, alertly pushed the basketball upcourt off the inbound, drew the foul with just 3 ticks left on the scoreboard and sank both charity tosses to ice the one-point victory.

“Nothing like a little drama to make a game interesting,” Wokasch said with a laugh.

Indeed. Payne’s putback basket, combined with two free throws and a layup by teammate Kayley Shoen, during the final minute of the first half staked Martin Luther to a 31-24 lead by intermission.

But 6-foot junior center Taylor Holicky, who delivered a game-high double-double performance of 17 points and 26 rebounds to complement seven blocks, and point guard Cylie Hankins fueled the Clippers’ second-half comeback.

Hankins, who distributed a game-best eight assists, displayed her long-range shooting skill by drilling a game-tying 3-pointer at 41-all with 8:50 remaining in the game.

After Corrow and Shoen exchanged baskets, Hankins nailed another trey off a Holicky assist to swing a three-point lead to Cleveland, but it wouldn’t hold up.

Shoen produced 14 points and seven rebounds, Payne tallied 12 points to complement nine boards and three assists, while Bentz netted seven points, five assists and five steals for the Knights.

Martin Luther (11-10) travels to St. Clair on Thursday for Showcase action.