ELWOOD — An often forgettable season for the Madison-Grant girls basketball team produced one of the program's most remarkable postseason moments Wednesday.
Bethani Herniak hit a free throw with 7.8 seconds remaining to provide the winning margin, and the Argylls erased a 22-point halftime deficit to stun Alexandria 43-42 in the first round of Class 2A sectional play.
"There's nobody else on our team I would want there," first-year Madison-Grant coach Chaz Barker said of Herniak's presence at the free-throw line in the final seconds. "She's a senior, and she's been through the highs and lows of varsity basketball. There's nothing she hasn't seen."
Except, perhaps, for the second half against the Tigers.
Madison-Grant (3-17) entered the postseason on a six-game losing streak, with its most recent victory coming on Jan. 14. The Argylls lost to this very Alexandria team 66-57 just five days earlier, and things began to look very bleak for the rematch midway through the first quarter.
Trailing 7-5, the Tigers (5-16) exploded for a 25-1 run that gave them a commanding 30-8 halftime lead. Alexandria's pressure defense harassed Madison-Grant into 18 turnovers, including 12 in the second quarter when the Argylls were held without a field goal.
Madison-Grant shot just 3-of-16 overall, while the Tigers used efficient ball movement to put six players into the scoring column.
"Honestly, that first half of basketball, that's as well as we can play," Alexandria coach Tina Bolte said.
The second half fell into the opposite end of the spectrum.
Barker looked at the long faces surrounding him in the locker room at intermission and issued a challenge.
"If you don't believe we can come back from this, stay in the locker room," he said. "We want to have girls out there that believe in what we're doing."