Thrilling comeback sends Poly Prep past Dalton in OT

Jackie Kennedy had mixed feelings about the outcome of her shot — one as the ball traveled her way from across the court and another as it left her hand. Whether she was shooting it or not was the only thing she was certain of.

“When Katie [Friel] saw me I said [to myself], I was going to shoot, it’s going to go in,” the Poly Prep freshman guard said. “I shot it and I was like, ‘Oh my god. It’s not going to go in.’ When it went in, everyone was all excited.”

So much so that the many in the raucous crowd at the Brooklyn school charged the court after Kennedy hit a 3-pointer from the left side to send the game to overtime. While she knew Dalton had plenty of time to recover from her clutch shot she believed it had given her team the opportunity it needed.

“We all knew we were winning,” Kennedy said.

Sophomore Katie Friel scored 16 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and gave Poly its first lead of the game on a layup with 32 seconds left in overtime. Bonnie Cecil’s runner with two seconds left went long and the Blue Devils hung on for a thrilling, 67-66 win over Dalton in front of a crowd of approximately 300 in Ivy League girls basketball last Friday.

The win puts Poly (14-1, 7-0 Ivy) in total control of the division race. It beat the Tigers for the second straight year at home in overtime. Kennedy scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half and Cherkira Lashley added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Cecil led Dalton with 18, Stephanie Lechich had 17 and Juliet Bakers added 14.

“I started to cry,” Friel said of her feelings after the final shot. “So many emotions, nervousness, excitement, I still thought the game might not be over or they might still get it in. Ecstasy obviously.”

Thing didn’t look promising for most of the game as Dalton, which led by 10 heading into the fourth, answered Poly comeback attempts with 6-0 and 5-0 runs to end the second and third quarters, respectively. Friel, like so many games prior, found her groove in the fourth, the Blue Devils attacked the basket and took advantage of Dalton’s inability to put the game away at the foul line. Kennedy scored on a putback and Friel made one of two at the line before Kennedy tied it at 53 on her 3-pointer.

“You got a freshman kid who in crunch time doesn’t hesitate to shoot a 3-point shot — that’s a quality in a player as a coach you just don’t teach,” Blue Devils coach Mike Junsch said.

Dalton (15-2, 4-2) was unfazed, though, as Lechich opened overtime with a 3-pointer and helped her team gain a 63-57 lead with 1:07 left in the extra session. Friel then would score on a drive and made one of two free throws to give Poly, which forced turnovers on the press, a 67-64 lead with 16.7 seconds left. Cecil put in a layup, but after a Poly turnover under its basket, missed the chance to tie.

“This team has demonstrated to me a tremendous amount of character,” Junsch said.

He team is now sits two games ahead of Fieldston, Hackley and Dalton for the Ivy League crown. It has games with Fieldston and Hackley upcoming, but this homecoming night belonged to Kennedy who seized the moment and possibly a title for her team with her clutch shot.

“I was just thinking I am open, I am going to shoot it,” she said. “There was no time left. I had to shoot it.”