By MARK HEIMAN
SPECIAL FOR THE COURIER
TONTOGANY — There was no doubt what Indiya Benjamin had in mind when she took an inbounds pass and the game was on the line.
“With 14 seconds left I’m told to attack the basket,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin did just that as she burst up court, down the right side of the lane and hit a runner with 8.1 seconds left as Lima Senior shocked Findlay High 60-58 in a Division I sectional final at Otsego High School Saturday.
“That was just a normal shot for me. I have to know how to put the ball in the hole,” said Benjamin.
The sectional championship puts the Spartans (15-9) in a district semifinal against Perrysburg (21-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Otsego.
“It was simple. Just give the ball to Indiya and get the hell out of the way,” said Lima Senior coach Vince Halliday, who played seven freshmen and sophomores along with one senior and one junior.
“They handled us the first two times and it is always said the third time is tough. We were two points better today and that is all that matters.”
Findlay (18-5) seemed down and out as the Spartans held a 56-50 lead with 57.8 seconds left. But the Trojans’ Jacey Hardesty cut the lead in half when she hit a 3-pointer. Benjamin answered with 2 free throws before FHS’ Abby Smarkel hit a rebound bucket to make it 58-55.
Lima committed a turnover on the ensuing possession and when Hardesty missed a trey, Taylor Stanfield grabbed the rebound, hit a bucket and was fouled. Stanfield hit the free throw to tie things at 58-58 with 14.0 seconds left.
That set up Benjamin’s winning layup as Findlay had trouble getting the ball inbounded and couldn’t get off a shot.
“We were down big, but it’s a testament to our perseverance that we tied it,” said Findlay Coach Connie Lyon, whose team trailed 47-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Spartans used the long ball early as Stacia Allen nailed four first-half 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 23 points.
“Stacia was feeling it a little bit early on. Findlay was in that 2-3 zone early and those shots presented themselves early,” Halliday said.
Findlay got 13 first-half points from Christina McQueen and used a 12-4 run over the final four minutes of the second quarter to take a 30-27 halftime lead.
The teams traded baskets to start the third quarter, before the Spartans took off on a 16-0 run in just under three minutes to open a 47-36 lead.
“We did not handle their pressure very well,” said Lyon, whose team turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter and 20 times overall.
“We gave them multiple opportunities and we were a little impatient. I thought we had more opportunities to reverse the ball more and look for better shots.”
Benjamin scored 15 of her 20 points in the second half, many coming on drives to the hoop.
“We attacked the basket really well in the second half,” Halliday said. “Our press worked well. We got a few deflections and steals and Findlay got a bit careless with the ball.”
McQueen, a senior, finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds for Findlay, which held a 51-26 advantage on the boards. Stanfield added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Nicole Muehl had 11 points and Smarkel 9 in their final Findlay High games.
“It’s a tough loss,” Lyon said. “You never want to end the season, but I think we played beyond what was expected of us and I’m proud of that.”
LIMA senior (15-9)
Allen 8-19 2-2—23, Benjamin 7-17 3-4—20, Thompson 5-8 0-1—10, Haynes 0-2 1-2—1, Cowan 2-3 2-3—6, Upthegrove 0-1 0-0—0, Washington 0-2 0-1—0. TOTALS: 23-55 8-13—60.
Swisher 0-4 1-2—1, Muehl 3-12 5-9—11, A. Smarkel 4-8 1-2—9, McQueen 7-15 3-5—17, Stanfield 6-9 2-2—14, Bendt 0-1 0-0—0, Hardesty 2-9 0-0—6. TOTALS: 22-58 12-20—58.
Lima Senior 16 11 20 13 — 60
Findlay 15 15 8 20 — 58
3-Point GOALS: Lima 6-20 (Allen 5-12, Benjamin 1-6, Thompson 0-2); Findlay 2-12 (Swisher 0-2, Muehl 0-2, Hardesty 2-7, Bendt 0-1).
rebounds: Lima 26 (Cowan 4); Findlay 51 (McQueen 17).
turnovers: Lima 11, Findlay 20.