Paul Campbell knew he was doomed.
Erika Yost stepped to the line for Manitou Springs with 0.4 seconds left in a bruising, thrilling skirmish with The Classical Academy. The game was tied, but Campbell, who coached TCA, had a strong sense it would not remain that way.
“I knew she would hit at least one,” Campbell said.
And she did. Yost buried the second of two free throws to give Manitou Springs a 29-28 home victory in 3A district playoffs. The game continued a rivalry. In the past 14 months, Manitou and TCA have played six times, with each team winning three.
For much of this season, Manitou has been defined by the play of Amelia Schofield, a 5-foot-6 senior guard who might be the area’s wisest basketball player, and I’m talking about any gender and any age.
Schofield seldom seems in a hurry. She’s calm as she searches a defense for weaknesses. The searching usually works. She’s averaged 16.8 points, 2.7 assists, 2.2 steals and 5.6 rebounds while leading Manitou to an 18-2 record. And she’s done all this while dragging around an injured left knee.
She scored 16 to again lead Manitou on Tuesday, and converted a crucial three-point play in the final minutes.
“She’s always rallying the troops when things get down for us,” Manitou coach Brian Brown said. “She’s very calm when things get chaotic.”
But this game was defined by Yost. With 6 seconds left, Manitou’s Chelsea Gibas stole the ball and passed to Yost, who roared into a crowd in the lane.
Manitou coach Brian Brown admitted he did not expect a foul call.
“Oh, I was surprised,” Brown said. “…But I’ll take it.”
“I felt the officials called a good game overall,” he said. “But I didn’t feel that was a good time to make that call.”
Yost experienced the play instead of just watching. She strongly disagreed with the coaches.
“I thought I got hit hard,” she said.
Yost missed the first shot. Brown immediately called timeout and plotted strategy. With Yost listening closely, Brown repeatedly said, “After Erika makes this free throw …”
“That gave me a lot of confidence,” Yost said. “I had to make it.”
When she returned to the line, Yost looked amazingly serene. She was smiling as she prepared for one of the biggest shots of her young life.
She swished the second shot, starting a subdued party on the Manitou bench.
Both teams travel Friday to Pueblo for the next round of the playoffs. For TCA, the game offered encouraging hints this season could remain alive. The Titans dominated much of the second half, pounding the ball inside for point-blank shots. Taylor Garcia scored 12 points and nearly carried TCA (10-10) to an upset.
A few minutes after the game ended, Campbell and Brown stood on the baseline talking about their teams’ friendly/fierce rivalry.
“I have a lot of respect for those girls from Manitou,” Campbell said.
One coach had won. One coach had lost.
Both were smiling.