WADSWORTH — When Wadsworth senior post player Kacie Evans grabbed the rebound, overtime seemed inevitable in a battle between the Suburban League’s top squads.
Aurora senior guard Shayla Sellers, on the other hand, would have none of it.
The Greenmen couldn’t be more grateful that she did.
Thanks to a crucial steal and two clutch free throws by its college-bound defensive stalwart, Aurora earned a thrilling 38-36 victory over host Wadsworth.
The Suburban League crossover showdown took place Thursday. With the win, the Greenmen, who are 5-0 in the American Conference, improved to 10-1 overall. The Grizzlies, who are 5-0 in the bigger-school National Conference, dropped to 9-2.
"It’s definitely a confidence booster going up against one of these big dogs," said Sellers, who scored 11 points and added three steals. "It definitely helps us in our focus on the postseason later in the season.
"It helps us in that we can play with these teams or even just hang with them. We can definitely hang with these type of teams in bigger conferences and bigger schools."
With the game tied at 36, Aurora hoped to go for the win on the final possession.
It looked like the chances of scoring a signature win would have to be put on hold when Evans gained possession after a missed 3-point attempt by the Greenmen.
However, before Evans could enjoy her newfound prize, the ball was immediately knocked away by Sellers, who recently signed to continue her academic and basketball careers at Purdue University Fort Wayne in Indiana.
"Going into that last play, I saw an opportunity to get the ball," Sellers said. "I saw that she didn’t really see me coming from behind her. I kind of swiped at it, hoping that I would get all ball, and I did. It happened to be right against the board."
Sellers quickly grabbed the loose ball and took a short bank shot. Unfortunately, the shot found iron, but she was fouled on the attempt with .5 left on the clock.
After Wadsworth burned a couple of timeouts, Sellers drained both free throws to ice the win.
"I was a little nervous, because I know I can make free throws," Shayla said. "I make them all the time in practice. But there was just like, a lot of pressure and having everyone around look at me. I was confident going into it. I know I can make a free throw any day."
Earlier, Evans scored a layup with her left hand to give the Grizzlies a 36-33 lead with a little more than two minutes left. That was Wadsworth’s only bucket of the fourth quarter and last points of the game.
Sellers also proved to be clutch prior to her thievery and accuracy from the charity stripe in the final seconds.
She got a crucial steal on the Grizzlies’ previous possession and tied the game at 36 with a bank 3-pointer from the left side.
The Greenmen’s switch to a man-to-man defense in the final eight minutes proved to be the difference as Wadsworth missed seven of eight shots and committed four turnovers.
"We were in a 1-2-2 and I just felt they were getting too good of looks on it, so we switched to our man," Aurora head coach Erika Greenberg said.
The win was particularly sweet for the Greenmen since they got much-less-than-normal production from their franchise player, sophomore point guard Shyanne Sellers — Shayla’s younger sister.
Shyanne, who entered the game with a sparkling 24-points-per-game average, scored a season-low 13 points and struggled with her shot for much of the way.
"I almost think it was good for us," Greenberg said. "We rely on her so much. She struggled, but then Shay stepped up. And we had other kids step up."
Evans was a force down low for the Grizzlies, but she didn’t get much help. She finished with a game-high 16 points and added nine rebounds.
"I’m happy, but I’m thinking down the road," Greenberg said. "We didn’t play well. I went into the locker room and I’m like ‘We won, but ...’ The girls are like, ‘Coach, you say that after every game.
"That’s the truth. We have not put a full game together. When we do, it’s going to be amazing. Who knows when that will happen or if that will happen."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.