Saturday, February 9, 2019

Petree scores 13 in 46 seconds in "dream"-like comeback win for Bradley

Bradley's Chelsea Brackmann and Indiana State's Ty Battle go for the opening tip at Renaissance Coliseum on Friday. The Braves won in a thriller, 81-80. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Peoria, Ill. - Sometimes, you just have to believe. That's what happened in the late-going for the Bradley Braves (16-5) (6-4), who were feeling good already after a 13-point road win over Loyola-Chicago on Super Bowl Sunday. Now, it was the Indiana State Sycamores (10-11) (4-6) looking to defeat the Braves. This was a 16-point Bradley win in Terre Haute back on January 13th.

It was evident from the opening tipoff that Indiana State had planned to show a press right away, and after the game, Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski acknowledged that the Braves were aware of the Sycamores' plan. However, Bradley didn't seem like they were doing so well against it. Granted, it would eventually be broken, and shots would eventually fall, but they still seemed to be struggling with it to a degree. Coach Gorski thought it was a moderately simple aspect of the Braves' efforts that allowed the Sycamore press to work the way it did.

"Yeah, we knew it was coming too. We didn't attack it. We let them trap us and we weren't getting rid of the ball quick enough."

Once things had settled down, the Braves and Sycamores seemed locked in a tight-knit battle. How tight? Well, the two programs equaled each other in both the first quarter (20-20) and the halftime score (39-39).

The Braves had to be feeling fairly decent about how they were playing to that point, hanging tough against an Indiana State team that was fresh off having snapped a three-game losing streak.

When it came time for the third quarter, Bradley wasn't as close to the Sycamores as they had been the first 20 minutes.

In fact, after jumpers made by Gabi Haack and Chelsea Brackmann were all the scoring the Braves would see for another three minutes. That would allow the Sycamores to get within a basket of a double figure lead.

From there, for the most part, it was the efforts of Indiana State's Tamara Lee and Ashli O'Neal that nearly doubled the aforementioned lead, getting up to as much as a 17-point lead with 1:55 to go in the third.

After a three from Gabi Haack cut the lead to 14, the Syamores' Daijah Smith hit a layup with 15 seconds on the clock. That being said, Bradley would need to make a 16-point comeback in just 10 minutes of play. Odds were definitely not on their side headed into the fourth quarter.

Truthfully, at least to start, it didn't get much better. The Indiana State lead stayed in the teens all the way up until the 3:45 mark of the quarter.

At this point, Bradley freshman Lasha Petree had 4 points. It seemed as if it'd be a tough scoring night for one of the best players in the freshman class within the Missouri Valley Conference. Then, Petree became the second half of that last sentence.

Three, steal, Three - repeat. That's not some kind of practice drill. That's almost exactly what happened in the game.

Two threes within six seconds, plus a steal in between. That's pretty impressive, until you know she did it again not even thirty seconds later, followed by another steal, and yet another three, this last trey forcing a Sycamore timeout and bringing Bradley within two.

Just about everyone in the place was having a great time at the game. In a sense, though, not Lasha Petree herself. Why? Well, she says it's quite simple, and for good reason.

"I don't think I was there."

As to what exactly was Petree's key to hitting those shots?

"I didn't even see the score. I didn't remember the score. I just knew we were down by a lot and I did not want to lose that game."

Remember that 17-point deficit? Yeah, neither does Bradley.

Breathe in, breathe out. A foul committed by Indiana State would put Chelsea Brackmann at the line. First one was missed, but then the junior regrouped and made the second to make it a one-point game.

Gabi Haack's turn. First try - tied game at 78 all. Second try - no problem either. Braves lead.

The Sycamores were bound to have a clutch moment, right? Exactly. Ty Battle, the daughter of Illinois Flyin' Illini member Kenny Battle, came up and nailed a jumper to tie the game at 80.

So, we're either going to overtime or we're going to have a buzzer-beater. Just eight seconds were on the clock after Battle's jumper. Guess who?

A risky foul by the Sycamores hardly after the pass had been in-bounded. That put none other than Lasha Petree at the line.

Petree would miss the first, as tension about doubled in Renaissance Coliseum. It would all go away when the freshman made the second to give what would end up as an 81-80 victory for the Braves.

Confidence is key. It's quite likely plenty of people have said that over the years. It's safe to say that Coach Gorski has confidence in some of her best shooters.

"Oh, I always think they're going in when Lasha and Gabi shoot them. Lasha's got a lot of confidence. I know she wasn't shooting well before that, but nothing's going to slow that kid down."

As you might imagine, Coach Gorski was about as shocked as anyone, but didn't shy away from a big negative that stuck out from the earlier portions of the game.

"Was that a dream? What just happened? That was a ferocious comeback. Worst defensive effort this season until the last couple of minutes. What can you say?"

Petree shared the stunned feeling.

"I don't know, I'm still kind of blacked out from what just happened. Still shaking. I did not expect me to do that. It just kind of came to me."

Gabi Haack says that it's not just shocked, stunned, what have you. Add confusion to the list.

"I'm a little shocked. I'm kind of confused. What just happened? Lasha had an outstanding last couple of minutes of the game. She just played her little heart out."

The Braves will host Evansville on Sunday at 2:00 pm to wrap up the special Play 4 Kay weekend.

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