The Fishers Tigers prevailed 36-35 against rival HSE on Friday night and advanced back into the sectional title game for a second straight year. Photo by Shawn Barney.
The Fishers Tigers prevailed 36-35 against rival HSE on Friday night and advanced back into the sectional title game for a second straight year. Photo by Shawn Barney.
FISHERS - Every possession mattered on Friday night, but none more so than in the final minute.

With a flurry of six combined turnovers in the game's last 50 seconds, Fishers senior Adrianna Murphy made her crucial stand with only seconds left and Tigers trailing 35-34 in the Class 4A Sectional 8 semifinals.

Finding an opening near the top of the key, Murphy hit a go-ahead jumper with 5.8 seconds remaining to help the ninth-ranked Tigers sink rival Hamilton Southeastern 36-35 and advance into tonight's sectional championship game.

"The kid's a playmaker," Fishers head coach Michael Gaines said. "She had the hot hand tonight and was doing a great job of shooting her pull up. We felt confident that she could get if off, so we put on an (isolation) scenario and let her go to work, and she stepped up in a big way."

Just one of many clutch moments in a thrilling tug-of-war rematch with HSE, the Tigers needed every shot to get an opportunity to defend their sectional crown against No. 6 Noblesville tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Neither team established a lead larger than four points prior to the frantic finish. There were 15 lead changes and three ties from the opening tip.

Fishers (20-5) won the first three quarters but HSE (16-7) rallied back to take the lead 35-31 with 2:20 remaining behind a 6-0 run sparked by Bre Lloyd.

The sophomore scored a team-high 12 points, and grabbed a steal followed by a transition layup with 6:41 in the fourth quarter. Minutes later Megan Walton buried a pair of free throws to end a four-plus minute drought as both teams traded missed shots in a hard-fought final quarter.

Fishers opened the fourth quarter 0-for-3 and didn't have a bucket until 1:55 when Kara Gerka halted the Tigers' 6:05 scoreless streak with a 3-pointer.

Gerka, a junior, and Murphy each led the Tigers with 15 point each.

With HSE leading 35-34, the turnovers ensued.

Fishers lost the ball twice - once on an over-and-back and the other with a lost ball out of bounds. HSE added another with an errant pass and with 27.9 seconds left Lloyd was trapped and stepped out of bounds as Fishers ramped up their pressure defense.

"I keep stressing defense this whole sectional. It's going to be crucial. We came out there and we knew we had to defend and it paid off," Murphy said.

The next possession, Fishers lost the ball with a five-second violation on the inbound, but Murphy grabbed a clutch steal and despite a missed jumper the Tigers retain possession with 19.7 seconds, setting up the guard's big moment.

Murphy inbounded the ball from under Fishers' own basket to Gerka, who gave it back to the senior. From there, Murphy slipped past Taylor Graham to hit the shot - marking the game's 16th and final lead change.

"I knew it was my turn to make something happen," Murphy said. "That shot, I knew I had to go make a play. I just had confidence. My team has a lot of confidence in me, and it just dropped in."

But the game wasn't over yet.

"After you hit a big shot like that, you can't be settled," Murphy said. "There was enough time out there. We still had to defend."

The Royals executed a full-court inbound and a sprinting Lloyd was fouled to give HSE the ball with 2.3 seconds from half court. On the next play, Graham launched an inbound pass to Madi Taylor, but the ball sailed too tall and long, giving the Tigers possession with 1.5 seconds left.

Nearly called for a traveling, Blake Inglis tossed the ball down the court, running out the clock and giving Fishers some revenge after falling to HSE 45-40 during the regular season.

"The first time we played them, we got them. This time they got the best of us, but it's always a grind it out game that goes down to the last minute. In this one, the last seconds," HSE head coach Chris Huppenthal said. "At the end there, I thought we should have got the ball back because she travels on the baseline.

"She takes two steps. You can't move on a dead ball, and she comes forward and takes two steps...but again, give them the credit they deserve. Michael does a great job, and those kids are part of our community. I hope they can get it done."