Gates makes the free throws count

COLUMBIANA – They call it the ‘clutch gene.’ Some people have it, others don’t.

Count Crestview freshman Alexis Gates among those that do.

Gates coolly made a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds left to lead the Rebels over United 34-33 on Thursday.

“I just really needed to make them to put us ahead,” Gates said. “I was really nervous. I was thinking about beating a team that hadn’t really been beat in five years.”

Gates’ foul throws came at the end of a chaotic second half that saw Crestview (4-4, 4-1 Inter-Tri County League upper tier) claw back from a halftime deficit.

Trailing 18-14 at the half, the Rebels ignited a 8-0 run midway through the third quarter to nab their first lead of the game. Crestview senior Anna Hardenbrook scored seven points in that span.

“Anna has been our rock-solid player all year,” Crestview coach Rick Gates said. “She’s our senior leader and only starter back. When the game was on the line and things got tough, she stepped up.”

It was a sharp contrast to the second half, where the Golden Eagles held Crestview to 14 points.

“We didn’t come out in the third quarter and own the boards like we did in the first half,” United coach Sam Mathias said. “They got a couple more chances and putbacks that hurt us.”

The Rebels led 27-24 after the third quarter, though United (5-2, 3-2) creeped back while Hardenbrook sat due to foul trouble.

“We went with another guard,” coach Gates said. “At that point, we were hoping to get another guard a good shot and cover defensively with a guard instead of a post.”

Hardenbrook fouled out with 1:02 remaining. United senior Mackenzie Gatchel made a pair of foul shots to grab a 33-32 lead with just 25 seconds to play.

That’s when Alexis Gates stepped up.

“I drive and get a lot of fouls called,” Alexis said. “That’s what I practice, free throw shots.”

They certainly paid off.

Gates finished with seven points for the Rebels. Hardenbrook had 10 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Emilee Chlebus scored eight points, while Tristen Huff added five points and two assists.

The loss puts United in an unfamiliar position – trying to halt a losing streak. After their 35-game ITCL winning streak was snapped on Tuesday with a 53-32 loss to Springfield, the Golden Eagles have sunk into a minor tailspin.

“They’re going to continue to work hard,” Mathias said. “We know we’re still in a league race. We still have to play South Range twice, Crestview and Springfield once. Those are the teams that are ahead of us.”

United, Crestview and Springfield all entered Tuesday’s games with identical 3-1 conference records. South Range leads the upper tier at 5-0. After the Rebels, Tigers and Raiders all won on Thursday, the Golden Eagles tumble to fourth place.

“This group’s not going to quit,” Mathias said. “They’re young and learning their lessons right now. Whatever happens this year, we’re going to improve out of it.”

Gatchel led United with seven points, seven steals, six assists and five rebounds. Sydney Moats, Kassie Chestnut, and Shanna Miller all had six points.

In jayvee action, Crestview won 24-20. Danielle Yanssens led the Rebels with 16 points. Haleigh Anderson had seven points for United.

UNITED: 12-6-6-9 – 33

CRESTVIEW: 8-6-13-7 – 34

UNITED SCORING: Lauren Beech 0-0-0, Sydney Moats 2-2-6, Kassie Chestnut 3-0-6, Mackenzie Gatchel 2-3-7, Shanna Miller 3-0-6, Morgan Smith 2-0-4, MacKenzie Firth 0-0-0, Jenna Plummer 2-0-4. TOTALS: 14, 5-11: 33.

CRESTVIEW SCORING: Alexis Gates 1-5-7, Emilee Chelbus 3-2-8, Anna Hardenbrook 4-2-10, Tristan Huff 1-3-5, Emily Ferris 0-1-1, Hope Halas 0-0-0, Sydni Bowker 1-0-3, Dana Drinnon 0-0-0. TOTALS: 10, 13-23: 34.

Three-pointers made: Crestview 1 (Bowker).