BIDWELL, Ohio — Talk about saving your best for last.
After scoring 18 points on 4-of-43 shooting through three quarters of play Tuesday evening, the River Valley girls basketball team found its rhythm down the stretch and rallied for a thrilling 39-35 victory over visiting South Point in an Ohio Valley Conference matchup on Senior Night.
The Lady Raiders (6-14, 3-6 OVC) — playing in their final home game of the 2012-13 season — honored seniors Cady Gilmore, Justyce Stout, Shalin Comer and Ashley Cheesebrew before the contest for their years of dedication to the program, but the Lady Pointers appeared to have spoiled the party by the end of the third canto after claiming a 28-18 advantage.
RVHS, however, came alive down the stretch, as the hosts went 7-of-15 from the field while going on a 21-7 charge — which allowed the Lady Raiders to rally back from 12-point fourth quarter deficit and secure an improbable four-point triumph.
The victory — River Valley’s first over South Point in over a decade — also came a with major asterisk, as senior Cady Gilmore became the fourth Lady Raider in school history to eclipse 1,000 points for her career.
Gilmore joined Sara Ward, Amber Staton and Brooke Marcum in quadruple digits at the 1:15 mark of the fourth quarter with a left-handed layup that pulled the hosts to within a point at 33-32.
Gilmore then answered with a trifecta on River Valley’s next possession, giving the hosts their first lead of the night at 35-33 with 58 seconds left in regulation. The Lady Raiders never trailed again.
Following the game, Cady Gilmore was shedding tears of joy for a variety of reasons — her 1,000 career points, a first win over South Point and, most notably, a win for herself and her classmates in their final home contest.
“There are no words to describe this feeling. This is just the best feeling in the world,” Gilmore said. “To have this happen in my final home game in front of all of our fans, it’s just incredible. The points are one thing, but to have it happen in a win during our final home game — it’s just icing on the cake.”
And like her daughter, RVHS coach Renee Gilmore — a 1,000-point scorer during her prep days at the now defunct Kyger Creek High School — was also pleased that her upperclassmen got to leave home on a good note, especially after the Lady Pointers (7-10, 4-5) handed River Valley a 72-39 setback at SPHS back on January 7.
“I’m really happy for our girls to get this win, especially the seniors,” the elder Gilmore said. “We took a beating at South Point earlier this year, and it would have been real easy for us to give up after the way things went through three quarters. However, we didn’t lay down and we just kept going at them — and it paid off. It’s definitely a little icing on the cake for us tonight.”
RVHS went 1-of-11 from the field in the first quarter and was also 3-of-28 overall in the first half, which allowed the Lady Pointers to secure leads of 13-4 and 22-9 after each of the first two periods of play. The Lady Raiders also trailed by as many as 15 points before the break, which came at 22-7 with 3:03 left in the second stanza.
Things didn’t get much better for the hosts coming out of the intermission, as the Lady Raiders missed their first 12 field goal attempts — but their deficit never dropped below 15 points during that span.
Trailing 27-12 with 3:57 left in the third period, Chelsea Copley hit a pair of free throws at the 2:51 mark to cut the deficit down to 13 — then Gilmore added her first two points of the night from the free throw line at the 2:11 mark for a 27-16 deficit.
Rachael Smith added River Valley’s only field goal of the third quarter (1-of-15) at the 1:17 mark to pull the hosts to within three possessions at 27-18, but Haley Rawlins netted a free throw for SPHS with 58 seconds left in the period — allowing the Lady Pointers to take a 28-18 cushion into the finale.
Brett Justice hit a field goal 39 seconds into the fourth to give the guests a 12-point cushion at 30-18, but South Point missed its next seven shot attempts — which opened the door for River Valley’s late-game heroics.
A Gilmore free throw at 4:34 allowed the hosts to again pull within three possession at 31-22, but Haley Rawlins sank a pair of charity tosses to give South Point its final double-digit advantage of the night at 33-22 with 3:33 left in regulation.
Shelby Brown hit a field goal with 3:16 left, then Gilmore connected on a trifecta at the 2:27 mark — allowing the hosts to close to within 33-27. Shalin Comer followed with a three-pointer with 1:55 remaining to get the Lady Raiders to within a possession at 33-30, then Gilmore hit her historic left-handed layup with 75 seconds left in regulation to get the hosts within a point at 33-32.
Gilmore followed her career milestone with arguably the biggest shot of her career, as her 22-foot three-point attempt from the top of the key hit nothing but net with 58 seconds left — giving RVHS its first lead of the entire contest.
Courtney Smith capped a 15-0 charge with a basket at the 30-second mark for a 37-33 cushion, but South Point ended its 3:14 scoreless drought when Justice netted a short jumper with 18 seconds left — allowing SPHS to again pull within two at 37-35.
The Lady Pointers — who went just 2-of-10 from the field down the stretch — were never closer the rest of the way. Leia Moore sank two free throws with 15 seconds remaining to wrap up the Lady Raiders’ scoring and the four-point decision.
RVHS connected on 11-of-58 field goal attempts overall for 19 percent, including a 4-of-18 effort from three-point range for 22 percent. The hosts were also 0-for-11 from behind the arc before the start of the fourth quarter.
Cady Gilmore led the hosts with 11 points, followed by Courtney Smith with nine points and Leia Moore with six markers. Chelsea Copley was next with four points, while the trio of Shalin Comer, Shelby Brown and Rachael Smith rounded out the scoring with three markers apiece.
The Lady Raiders committed 12 turnovers — six in each half — and were also 13-of-19 overall at the free throw line for 68 percent.
The Lady Pointers sank 13-of-49 shot attempts for 27 percent, including a 3-of-17 effort from three-point range for 18 percent. SPHS was 3-of-6 from behind the arc in the opening period and ultimately missed on their final 11 long-range attempts.
Brett Justice paced the guests with 11 points, followed by Brianna Bacon with seven markers. Abbey Winkler and Haley Rawlins both chipped in six points each for South Point, which committed 18 turnovers and went 6-of-18 at the charity stripe for 33 percent.
As happy as she was for her squad, Coach Gilmore was also humble in recognizing her oldest daughter’s milestone on Thursday night. As she noted afterwards, hard work does pay off in the long run — even for family.
“We’ve had plenty of ups-and-downs through the years, but Cady has fought through all of that and just continued to work on being a better basketball player,” Gilmore said. “She’s been a pressure player for us over the years and she has never expected any preferential treatment from me just because I’m her mother. She wants to be treated as any other player on the team, and I feel privileged to have coached her during these past four years.
“This is a really special accomplishment for her, and this is something that she truly deserves. I’m really proud for her and the upperclassmen tonight.”
It is the second time in three years that River Valley has had a female eclipse the 1,000-point plateau for their career, which is half of total list. Brooke Marcum last accomplished the feat as a senior during the 2010-11 campaign.