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Warden’s shot at buzzer lifts Tecumseh girls over McLoud

Brian Johnson
Sports Editor
McLoud’s Desira Jones (5) tries to drive past Tecumseh’s Kenzli Warden (11) Tuesday night.    

TECUMSEH – During the final timeout of Tuesday’s Tecumseh-McLoud girls’ basketball game, with 6.5 seconds to go, Lady Savage head coach Eldon Gentry II decided to put the game in his freshman’s hands.

That youngster - Kenzli Warden - delivered as she took the inbounds pass from teammate Katelyn LaFrance, briefly scanned the situation, dribble penetrated inside, and with her back to the basket, took a dribble to her left and the right side of the lane before banking the ball off the glass on a 5-footer at the buzzer, lifting Tecumseh to a thrilling 43-41 victory.

“I told her (in the timeout) to go win the basketball game for us,” said Gentry.

Warden not only nailed the game-winner, but topped Tecumseh in scoring (14), rebounds (eight) and steals (five). She was 6-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-4 from the free-throw stripe.

The Lady Savages, who improved to 13-6 on the season, saw McLoud make a staggering comeback by outscoring the hosts in the fourth quarter by a 16-6 margin.

Sophomore Hallee Winsea was the catalyst behind a second-half comeback for the Lady Redskins, who fell to 9-11. Winsea fired in a game-high 17 points as 15 came in the second half off five 3-point buckets. Teammate Lexie Boyer followed with 15 points, six steals and three boards.

Two others got into double figures for Tecumseh as Taylor Mansell tossed in 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and Schantel Evans posted up for 10 points and five boards.

“Schantel played really well, especially in the first half, and Mansell really did a nice job offensively with us being without our leading scorer Tawny Billy (due to injury),” Gentry said. “We had players step up and make plays for us tonight.”

LaFrance added five points, three rebounds and a steal to the Lady Savage attack and Marissa Gouge collected three steals, had two boards and hit a free throw.

For McLoud, Cheyenne Banks made a big impact inside with nine rebounds to go with her seven points and a blocked shot. Destin Walker had the other two points for the Lady Redskins.

Tecumseh took a 37-25 advantage into the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 run by McLoud to start the period ignited the nip-and-tuck affair the rest of the way. A Winsea 3-pointer, Walker basket and old-fashioned 3-point play by Boyer pulled the Lady Redskins within 37-33 with 4:42 to go.

McLoud closed the gap to 39-38 with 1:48 on Winsea’s fourth trey of the game. The Lady Savages went up by three, 41-38, after two Mansell charity tosses. Then with 32 seconds remaining, Winsea banked in her fifth and final 3-point basket to tie it up at 41.

Tecumseh trailed 7-5 after the first quarter, but dominated the second, outscoring McLoud 14-5 in building a 19-12 halftime lead. In fact, the Lady Savages went on a 7-0 run in the final 1:55 of the half as Mansell scored a bucket and nailed a free shot. Evans scored off a LaFrance feed and Warden stole a pass and finished off the play with a layup with eight seconds left before the break.

The Lady Savage momentum carried over to the third quarter with six straight points – another steal and layup by Warden and back-to-back buckets from Mansell off assists from Warden and Evans.

Tecumseh plays at Bethel Friday while McLoud is at home with Seminole on Thursday.