Truman's district title hopes crushed on controversial late foul call

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

It appeared Truman was inching closer and closer to victory late in overtime.

Sophomore forward Cece Mora hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Patriots ahead 45-44 with 13 seconds left in the Class 6 District 15 championship game at Liberty. The Blue Jays got the ball to halfcourt with 7 seconds left and called a timeout.

On the inbound pass, Olivya Tinoco got the pass and missed a driving floater, with the clock ticking off the final seconds, Liberty guard Ava Murphy ran behind the 3-point line in the corner and heaved a desperation shot.

“The girls play until the horn goes off and that’s exactly what they did on that play,” Liberty coach Joe Price said. “We just had to get a shot off. I thought there was some contact there, so it was a good call. For Ava to step up and hit those free throws is huge.”

Truman sophomore Urya’ Williams contested Tinoco’s shot and was called for the controversial foul with just 0.3 of a second left. It was a gut punch for the Patriots as Murphy missed her first free throw and sank her last two to give the Blue Jays an improbable 46-45 win, the district championship and a berth in next week’s sectional playoffs.

Fourth-seeded Truman had opportunities to slam the door shut on Liberty late in the game but the second-seeded Blue Jays made clutch plays.

Truman sophomore guard Taliyah Scott, who led all scorers with 16 points, attacked the basket consistently. She scored six in overtime, with her final driving layup giving Truman a 44-42 lead with 1:02 left.

The Patriots, who finished 12-10, had a chance after they got a stop on Liberty’s ensuing possession. Scott missed two free throws, leaving the door open for Liberty with 46 seconds remaining.

Liberty sophomore Alexandria Darling, who had a team-high 13 points for the Blue Jays (13-13), hit a floater in the lane to tie it with 23 seconds left. Mora was fouled on a layup attempt on Truman’s next possession and she hit 1 of 2. Then a controversial foul call ended Truman’s season moments later.

The Patriots led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter and 17-16 at halftime. Liberty bounced back with a strong third period to lead 29-25 going into the final period.

The Patriots started the fourth on a 9-2 run highlighted by Scott’s conventional three-point play and Williams’ nice shovel pass to Mora for a layup and a 34-31 advantage.

Darling tied it at 34-all with a corner three from the left side. Williams and La’Mourieaa Shaw both hit 2 of 2 free throws, which were sandwiched around a banked-in floater from Murphy.

“We missed three free throws in a row that could have put us up by five or six going into the last 30 seconds (of overtime),” Truman coach Jimmy Page said. “I am proud of the way the girls played. We fought all the way back in the fourth quarter. We had the game in our hands. That’s exactly what we wanted to have.”

Liberty got the ball past halfcourt and timeout was called with 2.7 seconds left. The inbound pass went to sophomore Ella Lawrence at the top of the key. She took one dribble inside the 3-point line and made a long-range jumper to send the game into overtime.

“We thought they overplayed on Alex a little bit, so we had a little screen there, and she made the right read. She was our second option,” Price said of Lawrence. “We thought it was going to be a three. They overplayed it, and she did a good job getting a shot off.”

Added Page: “We had a girl right in her face; she just made a great shot. Kudos to Liberty, they did what they needed to do to beat us by one point.”

Williams finished with 13 points for Truman. Of the Patriots’ six rotational players, they will only lose Shaw to graduation.

“We have many more years to do this again,” Scott said. “We have many more years to play with each other. This is just the beginning.”