By Gary R. Rasberry
VAN WERT -- Despite a 1-19 regular season, the Parkway girls basketball team was looking forward to a new beginning in the postseason.
And they'll get a chance to keep looking after the Panthers pulled an upset in knocking Lima Central Catholic out of the tournament with a 48-46 win in the Division III sectional at Van Wert.
Parkway returns to the Cougar Den on Saturday to face second-seed St. John's in the second game of the night.
The first game on Saturday will be top-seeded Coldwater facing Paulding at 6:15 p.m. The Panthers defeated Wayne Trace 47-43 in the first semifinal on Tuesday.
The key for Parkway was overcoming the things that hurt them in the regular season. The main thing was turnovers. Parkway turned the ball over 30 times on Tuesday, 19 times in the first half, but even then, Parkway only trailed by six, 25-19 at the half as the T-Birds also had trouble taking care of the ball with 14 turnovers.
"Our goal was to take care of the ball," said Parkway coach Krystal Sensabaugh. "If we had 15, we'd have a good game. When our girls turned it over, they went down and did it on defense."
With 2:38 to go in the third quarter, Audra Coleman's bucket put the Thunderbirds up 29-25. Parkway outscored LCC (10-11) 4-1 in the final moments, with the big score coming with eight seconds left when Ashley Gamble sank a three-pointer -- the only trey for either team in the game -- to get the Panthers to within one point for the first time since late in the second quarter.
The teams went over two minutes without scoring to start the fourth quarter. With 5:53 to go, Jayme Marbaugh hit a runner to put Parkway up 31-30, the first Panther lead since the second quarter.
At the 3:54 mark, Marbaugh drove and scored after getting fouled and the ensuing free throw made it 36-34 in favor of the Panthers.
After an LCC turnover, Tiffany Steinbrunner went inside for two to make it 38-34. Neither team scored for over a minute until the T-Birds' Jo Jo Krieg scored to cut the Panthers' lead to 38-36.
Steinbrunner countered with a bucket to push the lead back to four, but LCC got free throws from Michelle Bible and Jenny Lamoreau to close within two points before a pair of tosses from Elizabeth DePalma tied the game with 1:28 to go.
Parkway lost the ball on a travel on the ensuing possession and LCC took advantage as Lamoreau scored with 1:15 left to grab the lead again at 43-41.
Steinbrunner broke to the basket on the inbounds, scoring with 1:09 to go to tie things up again. Krieg then hit a free throw to put LCC back in the lead with 48 seconds left, but it took just 10 seconds for Parkway to get the counter as Steinbrunner scored to put the Panthers up 45-44.
After an LCC turnover Marbaugh was fouled and hit one-of-two tries at the charity stripe with 21 seconds left to put Parkway up two. After another LCC turnover, Marbaugh was again fouled and again hit one-of-two to make it 47-44 in favor of the Panthers with 12.6 seconds left in the game.
Jamie Guggenbiller iced the game by stealing the inbounds and hitting one free throw to make the Panthers' lead four points before Coleman sank a meaningless shot at the buzzer to cut the final deficit to two points, as the Panthers were already in celebration mode.
"We've worked hard the last three days," said Sensabaugh. "The girls have been coming in extra to shoot. They've been shooting and shooting and shooting. ...They were just hitting the shots when they needed them."
"We had a six-point lead and couldn't expand on it," said LCC coach Bill Taflinger. "You let a team hang around, bad things are going to happen."
Steinbrunner finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Marian Bevington, who was key in keeping the Panthers in the game in the first half, finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"She's a nice player," said Taflinger, referring to Steinbrunner. "Marbaugh (who finished with nine) had some nice shots. She did some nice things. ... We just didn't have an answer. When it came down to it, defensively we were holding them pretty much. We just couldn't score.
"They don't want the season to end," said Sensabaugh. "We're 1-0. We started over. The first 20 games were practice. Now, we're focused and know what we have to do. We're focused. We're doing it."
Krieg led LCC with 13 points and Coleman added 10.