By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah's women's basketball team looked like it was going to escape with a narrow victory over visiting Bridgewater on Wednesday after Hornets senior guard Crystal Petrus calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to give SU a one-point lead with five seconds remaining.
But as it turned out, Bridgewater, which had hit some timely shots in the second half to erase a 13-point deficit, had one more clutch shot left in it.
Facing full-court pressure from Shenandoah, Eagles sophomore Cassidy Burkholder received the ensuing inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court before nailing a running 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the buzzer to give Bridgewater a wild 58-56 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory.
"When shots like that are made, it's not our night," Hornets coach C.K. Calhoun said. "She was covered. She had two people on her, so if you're going to make that then you've probably practiced it a couple times."
Burkholder's miraculous shot capped a thrilling comeback by the Eagles (5-8, 3-2 ODAC), who had trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and as much as 13 with 16 minutes to play.
Shenandoah (5-9, 2-3) quickly extended a 33-26 halftime lead into a 41-28 advantage early in the second half as recent DeSales University transfer Tiffany Bauer started heating up. Bauer, who spent some of the first half on the bench due to foul trouble, scored six points as part of the Hornets' 8-2 run.
But Shenandoah then went cold, as the Hornets managed just seven points over a 12-minute stretch that allowed Bridgewater to slowly creep back into the game.
"They kind of went into a zone that we weren't prepared for," said Petrus, who led the Hornets with 16 points. "It was kind of a 1-3-1, but at the same time it wasn't. It was a 1-2-2 with the two front guards wider, and I guess we weren't sure how to play against it. And when we did run our offense against it, they were denying the baseline runner ... and that kind of threw us off, as well. We weren't really prepared for that."
Bridgewater managed just enough offense to close the gap, and bucket in the paint by former Skyline High School standout Oshene Kelly pulled the Eagles within three points with 4:45 remaining.
Hornets sophomore Imani Heggins (15 points, 12 rebounds) hit a free throw and a layup in transition to push Shenandoah's lead to 50-44 with 3:40 left, but a baseline layup by Burkholder (14 points) and a short jumper in the paint by Kelly cut Shenandoah's lead to two points with 2:57 to play.
Kelly finished with a career-high 10 points to go along with four rebounds and two steals.
"I missed a couple easy buckets in the first half and I knew that I needed to pick it up and that every point counts," Kelly said. "I basically just focused up, took my time."
Bridgewater senior Holly Morgan gave the Eagles their first lead of the game when she drilled a 3-pointer from the corner while drawing a foul. Her made free throw gave the Eagles a 52-50 lead with 1:45 to play.
Shenandoah tied it up on a mid-range jumper by Holly Chittenden shortly after, and Heggins hit one of two free throws to give SU a 53-52 lead with 53 seconds left.
But Morgan (13 points) delivered another huge 3-pointer when she nailed a deep trey from the wing to give Bridgewater a 55-53 lead with 25 seconds left.
Chittenden hit one of two free throws with 11 seconds remaining, and Petrus' free throws gave Shenandoah the lead before Burkholder's game-winning shot.
Shenandoah was just 10 for 17 (58.8 percent) from the free-throw line in the loss, including a 7-for-13 effort in the second half.
"We had to step to the line and make some free throws," Calhoun said. "When you look back at it, you have so many possessions in a game and we wish that we could have six of them back.
"I told my team in the locker room, this is how the ODAC is going to be. It's going to be a grind for 40 minutes. It's going to be a battle. You're going to have to show a lot of heart."
Bridgewater freshman Heather Cantrell led the Eagles with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Eagles held a 38-37 rebounding edge, while Shenandoah committed 19 turnovers to Bridgewater's 17.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD