Waite sophomore Kenya Middlebrooks made two of the biggest plays of her life last night to help her Indians fend off a tenacious effort from visiting Notre Dame.
With her team down by one with 24 seconds left, Middlebrooks corralled a rebound and nailed the put-back to put the defending City League champs up by one point. After the Indians stole an inbounds pass, Middlebrooks calmly converted two free throws with nine seconds left to seal a key 45-42 victory.
"It felt real good to step up like that because we needed that real bad," said Middlebrooks, who called the put-back the biggest basket of her life.
"I just believed I could do it. I needed to do it for my team. It was a lot of pressure, but I stepped up and hit two free throws and it worked out good."
Waite improved to 11-3 overall and 8-1 in the City while further securing its hold on the second seed for the four-team playoffs.
Notre Dame (11-4, 6-3), which knocked off Central Catholic on Monday, now needs to win out and get help in order to qualify for the City tournament.
"I thought our kids did a nice job handling the success of Monday night and refocusing on a quick turnaround against a very good basketball team," said Notre Dame coach Rhett Boyd. "It came down to the end with a chance and we just came up short."
Following Middlebrooks' free throws, Patrice Lalor had an opportunity to tie it with a 3-pointer, but her shot from the corner bounded off the rim at the buzzer.
Notre Dame led for most of the first half and took a 21-20 advantage into the break. The score was tied at 30 with 3:20 left in the third quarter and then featured seven lead changes. The Eagles took their final lead, 42-41, with 3:09 left.
Shareese Ulis, the City's leading scorer, then tried to provide a spark. However, the junior guard missed four consecutive shots over the final two minutes. On her last miss, Middlebrooks came up with the rebound and the winning basket.
"That was lovely. That was lovely," said Waite coach Manny May. "She is an outstanding rebounder on the offensive end from the guard position. This is her first year on varsity, but she's been in some tight games. She's learned how to rise in big games."
Middlebrooks finished with nine points and five rebounds, all the boards in the second half.
"We got them to take a tough shot and the ball bounced around off a couple sets of hands," Boyd said. "We were unable to secure it. So you have to give them credit. It did not surprise me that we had a shot at the end. I'm very proud of our effort."
Waite senior Tatyana McNeal led all scorers with 16 points. Ulis finished with 14, including nine in the first half, and hit her team's only 3-pointer.
Notre Dame senior Mallory Myers scored 14 points, including the Eagles' only 3. Senior Cierra Seifert added 10.
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