By Kris Freeman for White House High School
WHITE HOUSE – Playing for the final time at White House High School, the Lady Devils seniors refused to go down without a fight. And on senior night, the fight was taken to Portland in a 46-39 victory to send three young ladies out a winner.
Senior guard McKenzie Vaughn scored 25 points in her final regular season game as White House rallied from a 24-23 deficit at the half to put Portland away in the final eight minutes.
With the Lady Panthers in foul trouble, White House took advantage of what ailed them in the first half. The Devils finished the opening 16 minutes just 3-of-12 from the free throw line, but when it mattered down the stretch, White House closed the game with 14 free throws made in the second half.
White House was 14-of-17 at the line in the second half and 17-of-29 for the game.
Five of those came from senior Kelly Cain, who started the rally with a brilliant four-point play from the left wing in the third period. Vaughn connected seven times at the stripe late, and then freshman Sarah Cartwright calmly knocked down two free throws when Portland was trying to get back into the game.
White House opened the third with a flurry, as Cain connected for three and the foul with 4:27 remaining and extended the lead to 29-24 and then added two more free throws before Vaughn connected on a layup for a 33-24 edge.
Rachel Jennings added a three-point play for the Panthers, but Bailee Miller fed Grace Maupin on a backdoor cut with 10 seconds left in the third for a 35-27 edge. Jennings attempted a three on the other end for Portland, but the rebound tip went off the finger tips of Vaughn into the Portland basket for a 35-29 score. Portland senior Emily Brown, who scored 12 for the game, was credited with the basket.
Vaughn extended the lead to 37-29 with 6:17 left and White House would struggle to score again until the final moments of the contest, but did not surrender the lead.
The Panthers cut the margin to 37-31 with 1:57 remaining and then stole the inbounds pass, with a foul on Vaughn sending McKenzie Hodges to the line where she reduced to to 37-33 with 1:52 left. Trying to stall, the Lady Devils threw the ball away under their own basket and Portland fed Brown inside with 1:20 to play but she missed the front end of the 1-and-1.
Cain made both foul shots to extend the lead to 39-33 with 1:04 to play, and Portland missed a layup before fouling White House on the rebound and the loose ball. Vaughn made one for a 40-33 score.
Senior Courtney Meadows did not score but after securing an offensive rebound to keep the lead extended, she fouled out on the other end of the floor. Demaira Bell hit one of two but Portland’s Hodges got the rebound and missed the follow and Vaughn went to the line after grabbing the loose ball. She hit both to make it 42-34 with 28.1 seconds left.
Senior forward Taylor Cole hit two tosses for a 42-36 lead but Vaughn returned the favor to make it 44-36 with 16.2 seconds. Haley Dickens three was the final push for Portland for the 44-39 tally, but Sarah Cartwright iced the game for White House at the stripe with 8.2 seconds to play.
Vaughn blocked a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the game.
Vaughn led with 25. Cain had 11, Maupin five, Miller three and Cartwright two.
White House (3-21) broke a 14-game losing streak, and won for the first time since December 27. The Lady Devils also avenged an earlier season loss to Portland on Nov. 28th. Portland ends the season 10-11.
White House will play in the opening game of the District 9-AA Tournament at Westmoreland on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against two-seeded White House Heritage.