AURORA – St. Charles East girls basketball players Amanda Hilton and Kyra Washington stayed on the floor throughout Thursday’s game at Metea Valley.
Fortunately for East, the duo still had the energy and the poise to swing the game’s final moments in the Saints’ favor.
Washington scored the night’s last six points in exhilarating fashion, canning a 3-pointer to tie the game with about 50 seconds to play, then converting the decisive three-point play off a Hilton feed in the lane with 7.1 seconds to go for a 62-59 East victory.
“I was hoping [Hilton] saw it, and she did, so I was pretty excited once I made the layup and got the and-one,” Washington said of the game-winning play.
Hilton, a four-year varsity player, played like the savvy, senior point guard that the Saints expect her to be, knifing into the lane and recognizing the precise moment to set up Washington for a point-blank shot. The 6-foot-1 junior flipped it in and drew a foul on Metea’s Taseandra Parker, making the free throw.
“It’s basically just a screen-and-roll, see if I can go all the way to the basket, but the girl guarding Kyra jumped on me, so I tried to get as far as I could and she rolled and had a defender on her back, and it played out perfect,” Hilton said. “She was wide open, I got it to her and that girl didn’t know what to do, so she fouled, and it was an and-one, so it was great.”
A Metea turnover with 47 seconds left after Washington’s tying 3-pointer set the Saints up to close out the Upstate Eight Conference crossover.
East led, 42-41, headed into the fourth but Metea (7-3) controlled most of the final quarter, leading by as much as 56-49 after a put-back by Jenny Voytell.
Washington helped get the Saints untracked with a baseline jumper to cut the Saints’ deficit to 56-51, and Hilton provided a critical play later with a steal and fast-break layup to bring East within 57-56 at the 1:30 mark.
Washington scored 11 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter to help East (5-6) snap out of a recent slump.
“I think it will be great for her,” East coach Lori Drumtra said of Washington’s clutch finish. “I mean, she’s been on that edge for such a long time. I think everyone can see it but her as far as how much she can dominate a game and turn a game. I hope it will inspire her and give her more confidence.
“I never took her off the floor tonight. Her and Amanda never came off the floor.”
Despite a turnover-plagued first half including a rash of traveling violations, Metea led, 27-24, at halftime after closing the half with a 7-0 burst.
The Mustangs were led by 20 points from Voytell. Freshman post player Courtney Morgan sent East to the brink, popping off the bench to score all nine of her points in the fourth quarter after checking in for the first time late in the third.
Hilton led East with 19 points. Saints forward Hannah Nowling added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
East (5-6) was headed toward a third straight loss before the late rally.
“We had a rough week last – we got trounced by Geneva, and just didn’t play well against Conant,” Drumtra said. “So we needed this to kind of boost our morale a little bit going into the Christmas tournament [at Wheaton North].”
The Saints will be hard-pressed to match Thursday’s drama. The game moved to the top of the list of Washington’s most memorable.
“I think this is the most exciting,” Washington said. “That was a big finish. Everyone was pumped, so it was a good one.”