For the second time this season, Hannah Cox, unphased by the high expectations of playing a rival in a hostile environment on the road, hit key shots down the stretch when it mattered most and led the Lake Flyers to a 52-38 victory Thursday night over the Genoa Comets in front a standing room only crowd.
Cox’s heroics in the teams’ first meeting back in January propelled Lake to a win as time expired, crushing Genoa’s hopes of finally knocking off the Flyers, and she crushed any remaining hopes once again with her stellar shooting from the field.
The junior guard led all scorers with 20 points — 14 of them in the second half — and shot a ridiculous 6-for-7 from three-point range, leading the Flyers to their third consecutive Suburban Lakes League championship and seventh consecutive win against Genoa under Lake head coach Denny Meyer.
“Cox stepped up tonight and hit six threes. Her perimeter game forced us to gamble a little bit and we got burnt on it,” said first-year Genoa head coach Mike DeStazio.
“For how big this rivalry is, seven in a row is definitely a great accomplishment for us,” said Lake senior guard Kaysie Brittenham, who finished with 11 points. “There have been times when we lost numerous games back-to-back against Genoa, so to have this kind of streak is definitely amazing.”
With 4:19 left in the game, Genoa forward Jessica Feller, who finished with 12 points, made two key free throws, giving the Comets hope and pulling them to within three points of Lake, 41-38, in front of their frenzied home fans.
But, again, Hannah Cox answered. The sharp shooter nailed two long range threes in a mere matter of seconds which gave Lake a 47-38 lead and put the nail in the Comets’ coffin as the Flyers never looked back.
“Those two shots definitely put the momentum in our favor and we just stepped up our defense after that,” said Cox.
Cox was right. Lake did step up their defense, ending the game on an 11-0 run.
“We always work on playing our good, tough defense,” said third-year coach Meyer. “I thought we got a whole lot of good traps, got steals, [and] was able to go down and score without letting them set up in their triangle-and-two.”
Lake’s defense held Genoa to 15-of-38 shooting on the evening and kept them from scoring beyond the perimeter as they failed to connect on five shots, but DeStazio said his team’s inability to protect the perimeter on the defensive end was the difference in the game.
“I thought we did a great job on the boards,” said DeStazio, whose team out rebounded Lake 26 to 19 in a losing effort. “I thought we did everything good enough to win the ball game most of the time, except covering the perimeter game.”
The Flyers shot 40 percent (9-for-23) from beyond the arc, compared to 7-for-13 from inside the perimeter, and eventually were able to wear DeStazio’s stingy defense down.
“We got fatigued,” said DeStazio. “I’ve watched them play six times this year and I know I’ve never seen them shoot that well outside. To Hannah’s credit, her outside shooting was the difference in the game.”
Kaysie Brittenham, coupled with Cox, added to Lake’s deadly three-point shooting, sinking three shots of her own from long range.
But, Brittenham, the reigning SLL player of the year and league leader in scoring, knew it was her teammate’s contributions that helped Lake finish its regular season 19-1.
“I’m so proud of Hannah. She’s amazing and stepped up really big for us tonight,” said Brittenham.
Both Brittenham and Cox were proud of the way their teammates responded after suffering an eye-opening loss to fourth-ranked Division II Clyde on Monday night. The loss snapped Lake’s 61-game regular season win streak and ended their hopes of a third consecutive undefeated season under Meyer.
“After our loss on Monday, we wanted to redeem ourselves,” said Cox.
Despite the difficult loss and the long faces in his locker room following the game, DeStazio couldn’t be more proud of his team and is ready to see how his heartbroken squad responds in the upcoming sectional tournament.
“They’re competitors — they worked hard. There are a lot of teams out there that would love to be 18-2,” said DeStazio, whose seniors were unable to win their final game on their home court.
“We’re just going to keep playing hard. That’s what this is all about with these kids. I am the luckiest coach alive to be able to coach seven seniors like this. I will never trade and never forget the memories they have given me. We’re going to continue to go on and where we go, it really doesn’t matter. I am the luckiest coach alive.”