JOHNSTON CITY — Rachael Kell’s layup with 42 seconds left proved to be the winning bucket for Nashville in a 36-32 win over Harrisburg in the semifinal of the Johnston City 2A girls basketball sectional Tuesday.
"Janie (Holle) cut off of Karly (Stanowski) and I heard coach yell for me to go, so I cut hard off of Karly and Libby (Ahlers) made the pass and I knocked the shot down," Kell said.
Kell started the game by hitting four of her five 3-pointers in the first quarter, but it was her only two-point basket of the game that proved to be the difference maker. The junior guard finished with a game-high 17 points.
"I told Coach (Gary) Mueller as we got on the bus tonight I was feeling it and thought I could knock some shots down for the team," Kell said.
Nashville (25-6) will play Breese Mater Dei (19-10) Thursday at 7 p.m. in a rematch of last year's regional final in which Mater Dei eliminated Nashville, 52-36. The winner will advance to the Jacksonville Super-Sectional next Monday.
"I thought both ends the defenses were very good and that's post season basketball," said Nashville coach Doug Althoff. "The further you get, it's harder to score, so you hope you have a chance to win it at the end of the game. I always say you might not score, but you can always play defense and rebound. Tonight at the end we did all three with Rachael hitting a big shot, our defense stopping them and Janie grabbing a big rebound."
The game was tied at 26 at the end of the third quarter. After not scoring on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions Matty Hawkins put back her own missed shot to give the Lady Bulldogs the lead.
Paige Kasten then hit Nashville’s seventh 3-pointer to give the Hornettes the lead. Lotte Miller was fouled seven seconds later on a shot and missed her first attempt, but made her second to tie the game for the fourth time at 29.
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Stanowski then drew a foul on a putback and split a pair of free throw and Holle followed with a fast break layup to give Nashville a three-point lead with 3:12 left.
Eight seconds later, Miller responded with a three-point play making a foul shot following a driving layup and the score was tied again at 32.
After Nashville failed to score, Miller was called for a charge driving the lane to turn the ball over to the Hornettes with 1:45 remaining.
Nashville worked the ball around running the clock down and with 42.3 seconds left, Kell scored on a backdoor play to give the Hornettes the lead 34-32.
"That play is designed to run the clock down, but if you have an opening you take it," Kell said.
With 19 second left, Miller missed a layup and Harrisburg fouled on the rebound. On the in-bounds pass Ahlers was called walking to hand Harrisburg another chance to either win it or send the game into overtime.
With 5.7 seconds remaining, Miller missed a contested shot and the Lady Bulldogs lost the rebound out of bounds. Ahlers was fouled with 4.2 seconds left and missed the front end of her one-and-one, but Holle grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.1 seconds left and made both her free throws to put the game away.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” said Harrisburg coach Jake Stewart. “Nashville is always well prepared and they probably ran their offense and played their defense better than anyone we've played this year. I'm proud o my kids. We made it here with one senior and three juniors, so going into the season if you asked me if we would be here and have a chance to win with under a minute to go I would have took it."