Fourth-ranked Lincoln Academy (18-2) led by as much as 11 midway through the third quarter, and the lead was still five heading into the fourth. But the Falcons (18-2) kept clawing away.

Mountain Valley didn’t get onto the scoreboard in the fourth until the final 90 seconds, but the Eagles hadn’t pulled away by that point.

“The team that makes free throws and layups usually wins,” Eagles coach Kevin Feltis said. “We preach it all the time, it’s something that we live by, and we failed a little bit late.”

Sydeny Petrie’s basket with 1:27 left made it a 30-25 game. After a Lincoln Academy turnover she banked in another to cut it to one possession.

The Eagles made just enough free throws — 4 of 9 in the fourth — to hold on. Karen Flaherty hit a 3-pointer for Mountain Valley with four seconds left, but the Falcons ran out of time before they could foul and hope for one last shot.

“At the end of the game we had a shot,” Mountain Valley coach Ryan Casey said. “We made some mistakes early. We played with a ton of heart and fought all the way to the end.”

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The Falcons were within one after one quarter, and led by four early in the second. Then the Eagles finished the first half on a 10-0 run to take control. Mountain Valley had just 13 points and 12 turnovers in the first half.

“I’m not so sure it’s nerves. I think … these are high school kids,” Casey said of the sloppy play. “All the kids on the floor had to deal with the same bright lights, big city tonight and Lincoln made a few more shots than we did.”

Brie Wajer was consistent throughout the game as Lincoln Academy’s leading scorer. The junior guard made a field goal in each quarter and totaled a team-high 11 points. Chloe Hallowell and Alyx York combined for 10 points in the second quarter.

“Those two kids are our spark plugs,” Feltis said.

Sydnie Petrie scored a game-high 15 points for the Falcons in her final high school game. Liza White added 10.

The Lincoln Academy defense held Flaherty, one of the best 3-point shooters Feltis has said he’s seen in the state, to just the last second make.

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Despite the top ranking the Falcons fell short in advancing to their first regional final. Yet according to Casey, he couldn’t have asked for anything more from his players.

“They played the way we wanted them to play. We’re proud of them,” Casey said. “I think anyone that had a ticket to tonight’s game realizes that Mountain Valley is a basketball program that plays really hard, works really hard and has a lot of great kids.”

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