Trailing by one, the Cony senior set herself up for an isolation play only to discover she was left alone — with her own thoughts. An Edward Little defender had drifted off her and was late getting back.
“I was left wide open,” said Diplock. “It was one of those where I thought ,’Oh my God, if I miss this I’m going to cry tonight,’ but I made it.”
If there were tears, they were from joy. That basket put Cony ahead for good with 36 seconds left Friday night. The Rams shrugged off a poor first-half to rally to stun the Red Eddies, 44-41 in the Eastern A final at the Augusta Civic Center.
It is the 10th regional crown for Cony (21-0), who will play in the Class A state championship at the Cumberland County Civic Center next Saturday.
“It’s unreal,” said Diplock, who scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’ve had goosebumps ever since we stepped off the court.”
EL (18-3) was up by as many as 15 points and were seemingly well on their way to a first-ever regional title. When Cony scored 10 straight in the third quarter, everything changed. The Red Eddies struggled offensively and watched the Rams charge back into the game.
“This was the night to get them,” said EL coach Craig Jipson, whose team lost to Cony twice in the regular season and in the KVAC championship game. “This wasn’t their A game. I just think it shows why they’re undefeated, that they don’t have their A game and still come out and get the win.”
EL got a sensational game from Kory Norcross, who led EL with 16 points. Freshman Tianna Harriman was superb as well with 11.
In addition to Diplock’s 17, Josie Lee and Melanie Guzman each had seven.
EL managed just 11 points in the second half. The Red Eddies shot 4-for-25 in the second half and turned the ball over 11 times. EL got good looks at times, especially in the post, but the Red Eddies couldn’t get a shot to fall.
“We just kind of got tight and couldn’t make a shot,” said Jipson. “I think our kids listen too much to people in our community about struggling in the third quarter. When you’re mentally tough, you don’t listen to all that. You block it all out.”
Cony’s 10-0 run in the third got the Rams within 32-29, but Brooke Reynolds scored off an inbounds pass from Kate Sawyer that made it 34-29 to end the third.
“We cut it to three and then they made a basket right before the fourth to put them up five,” said Magnusson. “You could see the girls sink a little. I told them that we’d just cut that lead. We needed to keep it going.”
Crissy Lewis, who finished with six points and a tremendous night on the defensive boards, opened the fourth with a basket for a 36-29 lead. A 3 from Diplock and a jumper by Emily Quirion made it 37-34.
After two free throws by Reynolds put the lead back to five, Quirion scored in the lane. Then Diplock finished off a Julie Arbour pass to get Cony within one with 2:17 left.
Diplock then scored on a turn-around shot to put Cony in the lead in the final minute. EL, which hadn’t scored a field goal since the opening minute, got a Lewis basket in the post with 50 seconds left. Norcross found the mismatch and few Lewis inside.
That’s when Cony found Diplock alone down low on the right side. Her layup made it 42-41 with 36 seconds left. EL never got another shot. Diplock stripped the ball with 24 seconds left and drew a late foul. She sank both to pad the lead.
“We had a ton of chances to make a big shot,” said Jipson. “Crissy made made one and then they came down and scored on an easy layup. We’ve got to play better defense than that.”
EL’s shooting woes down the stretch was kind of what Cony experienced early on. The Rams shot just 7-of-32 in the first half and hit just two of its first 14 shots in the second quarter.
“They were playing awesome,” said Magnusson of EL. “We had to talk to the girls about doing it together. We got away from what we do well, which is hit open players and getting open shots.”
Diplock, the KVAC South Player of the Year and Eastern A tourney’s most outstanding player, scored only two points in the first half. Those came late in the second quarter.
“Emily Hartnett was an absolute warrior on Diplock,” said Jipson. “Other kids did a great job helping out.”
Meanwhile, EL shot 6-for-12 in the first quarter. Harriman hit a pair of 3’s in her eight points and Ashlee Arnold added a 3 as EL built a 15-9 lead in the first quarter.
Harriman opened the second with a 3 and Norcross scored 12 points in the second quarter, including a pair of 3’s. She outscored Cony 12-3 by herself at one point to put EL up 30-15.
“Last year we lost to Messalonskee and were down 15 at halftime,” said Diplock. “That was definitely playing in my mind. I knew if we worked together, we could definitely come back.”
Cony got a basket from Arbour and a steal by Diplock, her first basket, late in the half to cut the lead to 30-19.
“It was just a phenomenal defensive effort in the first half,” said Jipson. “Even in the second half, we knew they were going to score. They still only got to 25 points.”
Norcross fed Lewis inside to open the second half, but EL didn’t score again for nearly seven minutes. Diplock and Guzman each had four points during the 10-0 run that got Cony back in business.
“We just had some big defensive breakdowns down the stretch,” said Jipson. “We just couldn’t score. I thought we got better shots, better looks in the second half than we did in the first half. We just didn’t make them. It was the most helpless feeling in the world.”