By Joe Gisondi

It’s tough to call a single play crucial in a 21-point game.

But, of course, we’re going to do that.

Because it’s true. 

In a game where Lake Land hit 10 3-pointers, where Kamaria Gant scored a team-high 17 points, where Olivia Niemerg came off the bench to make all of her field goals, 3-pointers and free throws to score 13 points, and where the Lakers combined for 19 steals – Elizabeth Buescher’s 3-pointer was arguably the most important play of the night in a 68-47 victory over Parkland in Friday night’s NJCAA national women’s basketball semifinal game in Hickory, North Carolina.

The Lakers take on Johnson County, which defeated Illinois Central 69-56, in tonight’s national championship game starting at 6:30 p.m. CST.

“It’s pretty darn exciting (playing for the title tonight),” said Lake Land Coach Dave Johnson. “I’m trying to stay grounded. I don’t know if there’s a word to describe it.”

The Lakers appeared headed to the title game at halftime, when they held a 39-21 lead.

But Parkland’s 6-foot-1 forward Naomi McDaniel took over in the third quarter, using her size to power through a smaller Lakers squad that averages about 5 feet 7. McDaniel scored all 10 points during a Cobras run that cut Lake Land’s lead to 39-31 about five minutes into the quarter.

“I was a little nervous, to be honest,” said point guard Harley Barry.

“I know we had to stay calm,” said Tresoir Newson.

Said Johnson: “I’m always concerned during a 10-0 run.”

Parkland relied on a 13-0 run to defeat Lake Land in their first matchup in February.

After McDaniel completed a three-point play by making a free throw, Barry took the ball up court and fired a pass to Buescher in the left corner whose shot arced perfectly into the basket for Lake Land’s seventh 3-pointer that made it 42-31.

After that, Parkland never really threatened.

Parkland went on an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter after Lake Land had rebuilt its lead to 18 with about four minutes left in the game. But, at that point, the run was insufficient.

Lake Land closed the game on a 13-2 run.

“That was a big shot,” Johnson said. “Elizabeth is always consistent for us.”

Gant made all three of her 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Lake Land build a 20-12 lead.

“Anytime I was open, I just let it fly,” Gant said. “You have to have confidence, if you’re a shooter.”

Newson, meanwhile, pressured Parkland all night, recording eight of the team’s 19 steals and helping force several of Parkland’s 30 turnovers.

“It’s amazing,” Newson said of playing in the championship tonight. “It feels good to see and feel it come alive.”

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Lake Land2019131668

TEAM STATISTICS

ParklandLake Land
Field Goal17-3922-49
Field Goal %43.6%44.9%
3 Point0-510-24
3 Point %0%41.7%
Free Throw13-1614-19
Free Throw %81.3%73.7%
Rebounds2924
Assists1013
Turnovers3017
Points off Turnovers2230
2nd Chance Points65
Points in the Paint2620
Fastbreak Points22
Bench Points623
Largest Lead421
Time of Largest Lead1st-07:464th-01:13
FG3ptrFTRebPtsMin
Kamaria Gant  5-11  4-8  3-31728
Tresoir Newson  3-7  0-2  1-4732
Shania Schoonover  0-4  0-0  0-0015
Harley Barry  5-10  0-2  5-61533
Abby Weis  2-7  1-5  1-2628
Olivia Niemerg  4-4  3-3  2-21320
Elizabeth Buescher  1-1  1-1  0-037
Karrington Krable  1-3  0-2  0-0213
Avery Still  0-1  0-0  2-2212
Kayla Sirjord  0-0  0-0  0-006
Josie Orris  0-0  0-0  0-002
Jae Lynn Riggleman  1-1  1-1  0-032
JOAnna Schultz  0-0  0-0  0-002