With something to gain from a trying season, Nicole Turner saved her best for last.
So did the rest of her Wyoming Area teammates.
And because of it, they worked their way right into the District 2 Class 3A playoff bracket.
Nicole Turner clinched the victory with two free throws, Felicia Turner hit the go-ahead basket with under three minutes remaining Monday and Wyoming Area avenged an earlier defeat to Coughlin by edging the Crusaders, 33-27 in a district play-in game at Wyoming Area High School.
“It’s so exciting,” said Felicia Turner, who is no relation to Nicole. “The first time we played them, we only lost by two. It’s great to come back and win this thing.”
The win put Wyoming Area up against district favorite Holy Redeemer Friday evening.
Alexis Lewis led the Royals to an 80-23 victory with 35 points, while totaling 12 steals and 11 rebounds in the opening round game. Rebecca Prociak added 14 points and Lydia Lawson 13 for the Royals.
Jordan Kelly and Nicole Turner each had five points in the losing effort for Wyoming Area.
Redeemer got out to an insurmountable lead. The Royals outscored Wyoming Area 34-6 in the first quarter. The Warriors were unable to score more than six points in any period.
The week sent Wyoming Area’s final overall record to 6-15.
“Our record aside, I believed we belonged there from the start,” said Wyoming Area coach Ryan Kennedy, whose team is suddenly 4-6 over its past 10 games after a 2-8 opening. “Our record may not have been great, but when we execute and we play well, we battle teams.”
The Warriors had to battle back from an early 8-2 deficit, as Savannah Robinson hit four free throws in the opening quarter to get Coughlin off to a strong start.
Wyoming Area didn’t score its first basket until Jordan Kelly came off the bench to punch in a layup with five seconds to play in the opening quarter.
“I think we just had to get the jitters out,” Nicole Turner said. “We knew we needed this.”
Once they shook off the nerves, the Warriors put themselves in pretty good position.
Nicole Turner popped the first two baskets of the second quarter to put Wyoming Area on top, 9-8, then Emily Wolfgang scored three more to give the Warriors a four-point lead. But Coughlin closed within 16-15 by halftime, and used six of the 10 points Marissa Ross tossed in to tie the game 22-22 with one quarter to play.
Ross opened the final stanza by driving the lane for a layup and a 24-22 lead. But Nicole Turner tied it up again with a jumper, then used a foul shot to boost the Warriors into a three-point lead.
“It’s real exciting, because it’s my last home game,” said Nicole Turner, a senior who finished with a game-high 11 points.
At least it won’t be her last game.
After Robinson evened the score with a three-ball with 3:11 to play, Coughlin didn’t score again and finished its season at 3-19.
Meanwhile, Wyoming Area stepped it up at the end.
“I told them this is a grind-out win,” Kennedy said. “Not many things were going right for us tonight. They kept going at it.”
Felicia Turner’s bucket put Wyoming Area ahead for good with 2:41 left, Nicole Wright added a big bucket when the clocked ticked just under two minutes and Nicole Turner’s two foul shots closed out the scoring 40 seconds from the final buzzer.
“By the end, the energy took its toll,” said Felicia Turner, who sparked Wyoming Area’s paint play with eight rebounds. “We just knew we had it.”
With the win, the Warriors had to summon a little more of that pep when they traveled to face a Redeemer team that has plans of playing in the District 2 Class 3A title game for a second straight season.