CHALMERS — Together they sat.
Tethered to the bench after each fouled out, seniors Abbie Carter and Emi Frier watched in near-agony as Frontier’s season-opener against North Montgomery. Reactions were turned to 11 between calling out advice to Lauren LaOrange when she went to the free-throw line or to the rest of the group as the Falcons played defense.
When the interminable clock finally buzzed for the final time, the pair bolted off the bench before calming themselves. Once the team, which has five seniors on it, was in the locker room, the screams began in earnest.
“We didn’t give up, even though there was those foul outs. We kept pushing,” junior forward Shelby Clothier said of the final quarter. “We stuck together, we stayed calm and we played as a team. Did it all as a team.”
Added junior Lauren LaOrange, “We had people foul out, which was trouble. But we stuck through, got new people in and came together as a team, played through it. What I think won the game was that we stayed tough through the whole thing and didn’t break down.”
The Falcons sweated out a tense final minute to beat the Chargers, 31-30, and capture the program’s first win since Nov. 13, 2018 — 357 days ago. Frontier took the lead on LaOrange’s split from the free-throw line with 58 seconds remaining, and then held on.
The Chargers had the ball for 36 seconds, but Frontier forced a turnover. LaOrange was fouled with 16 seconds on the clock, but missed both foul shots. Again, North Montgomery controlled the ball and clock — but lost the ball out of bounds with 5.5 seconds left.
“The free throws were very much pressure,” LaOrange said. “But you’ve just gotta shake it off, and if you hit them, you hit them. If you don’t you get back on defense and try to get the stop.”
An inbounds pass brought the ball in for the home team, but an errant throw — with its hope centered on a breakaway, game-ending layup — went out of bounds with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Only after Madi Welch’s 3-point halfcourt heave bounded aimlessly off the backboard did the hosts let loose.
“We stayed composed as a team,” head coach Kyle Marlatt said. “We practiced all week how to handle situations being up one or down one with a minute left and that really came through. The girls executed to perfection — they knew their roles and handled their roles well. They embraced the pressure, and they showed they can finish in tight spots.”
Frontier held a 30-28 lead when Carter was whistled for her fifth foul. Six seconds later, Frier — who gave her team the 30-28 lead by hitting 2-of-4 foul shots in a two-second span a few seconds into the fourth — fouled out.
Despite their absence, the Falcons remained steadfast.
North Montgomery missed all three free throws around Carter and Frier’s fouls, as well as another pair a couple minutes later, to aid the home team. The Chargers also shot poorly from the field, including a 2 for 8 effort after tying the game at 28 with less than a minute to play in the third. The visiting team also committed nine of their 26 turnovers in the final 8:49 of gameplay.
North Montgomery not being able to sink baskets — 11 for 44 was the final tally, with a 1 for 17 mark from 3-point range and eight missed foul shots — offset its 19 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points.
Frontier, in turn, was 12 for 37 from the field, and missed nine foul shots (4 for 13). But the Falcons hit three 3s and scored just enough to overcome a 10-9 first-quarter deficit and withstand the Chargers’ late comeback.
Marlatt noted the team keyed on Drew Brees’ pregame speech to Purdue before it faced Nebraska on Saturday. Brees focused on the three E’s: excitement, emotion and energy.
“You don’t know if your play is going to be the play that decides the game,” Marlatt said. “We can look back at Maddie Mathew, who got in and got a key rebound for us. Or we can look at Hannah Simmons getting in there and getting a couple steals. Or we can look at Daisy Christopher, grabbing a big rebound and kicking it out.
“Everybody contributed, and it doesn’t matter what play it is — it helped decide the game for us.”
Frier paced the club with 10 points, three assists and a steal; she also snared two offensive rebounds. Sophomore guard Emma Blissett scored eight and senior guard Kyra Wilson netted seven, including consecutive buckets that turned a 16-13 deficit into a 17-16 lead. Frontier pushed the advantage to 22-17 at halftime on a Wilson 3, and held a 28-21 edge with three and a half minutes left in the third. It was 28-28 after three.
The Falcons committed 18 fouls, but Marlatt wasn’t necessarily worried when both Carter and Frier were banished to the bench permanently.
“If our seniors are in he game, or on the bench, they’re still being leaders,” he said. “We told them to be aggressive for the past two weeks (and) they did exactly what we said — they were aggressive. Sometimes you will foul out. But that didn’t take away from their leadership from on the bench.”