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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Another one to remember

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recent years have seen some memorable battles between the Couch Lady Indians and the Thayer Lady Bobcats for the right to hoist the championship trophy in the annual Thayer Winter Classic.

And the latest installment of this rivalry could easily move to the top of the list.

Couch's Lizzie Nessling hit a turnaround jumper from about eight feet out with nine seconds left in the contest, breaking a tie game and giving the Lady Indians a thrilling 55-53 win over Thayer, Jan. 22, in this year's Winter Classic finals.

Since dropping a pair of games in the Walnut Grove Holiday Tournament, the Lady Indians have been on fire.

Thayer, too, has been on a nice roll since the calendar turned to 2011, and both teams looked like they're ready for this season's stretch run.

The top-seeded Lady Indians held a 43-40 lead heading into the fourth period, but a long trey from Thayer's Meshila Mullins (12 points) pushed the seventh-seeded Lady Cats in front 49-46 with 5:07 left in the game.

On the strength of a pair of free throws from Laken Martin (16 points), Thayer built its lead to 53-47 with a shade over two-and-a-half minutes left.

But here came the Lady Indians.

Cassie Roberts (seven points) shook free for back-to-back buckets and, when Crystal Britt (eight points) stuck back a missed shot with 58 ticks left, Couch had reeled off six straight points to lock the game at 53-all.

The Lady Bobcats had a chance to unlock the tie, but missed the front end of a one-and-one at the 43-second mark.

Couch grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 20 seconds showing on the clock to set up the final shot.

And what a shot it was.

Nessling spun free for a turnaround jumper on the left block to give Couch a 55-53 lead with time winding off the clock. Nessling led all scorers with a game-high 17 points.

A desperation shot at the buzzer was short of the mark for Thayer, giving Couch possession of the Winter Classic first-place trophy.

With the way the game started, it looked like there would be no doubt that the Lady Indians would be taking the trophy back to Couch with them.

The Lady Indians sped out to an 11-0 lead to open the first period, with Alex Hower (14 points) dropping in five points and Britt adding four in the burst.

Thayer's first points of the night came seven minutes into the game on a jumper from Melisa Cabrales.

Martin followed with a baseline shot and Emily Eckman (nine points) chipped in with a layup to pull the home team within five, down 11-6 after one.

Then the Lady Bobcats turned the tables on Couch in the second.

An old-fashioned 3-point play from Lauren Hargus (12 points) started a 7-0 spurt for the Lady Cats that gave Thayer its first lead of the game, 15-12.

And the Lady Cats were not yet done.

Mullins sank five straight free throws and Eckman drilled a trey to give Thayer a 10-point lead.

Couch fought back in the last two minutes of the first with seven points from Nessling, but a putback from Mullins near the buzzer sent the teams to the half with Thayer ahead 29-21.

Thayer held the lead for the bulk of the third period, until three straight steals and buckets from Sarah Neptune (nine points) pushed the Lady Indians on top 40-35.

Although Couch took a 43-40 margin to the fourth period, the Lady Bobcats had no intention of just giving in, with Thayer grabbing the lead back with five minutes left to play.

But in the end, as it usually does between these two county rivals, the last play loomed the largest.

And on this night, it was Nessling that turned in the play that determined who the victor of the 37th annual Thayer Winter Classic would be.

Elly Burrell finished with two points for the Lady Bobcats.

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