LAKE PLACID - It had been three seasons since Frank Johns had last coached a basketball game on the court at Lake Placid High School.
On Monday, Johns returned to Blue Bombers territory as the head coach of the Saranac Lake girls team, and along with his Red Storm players, he was able to escape with a 33-30 overtime win.
Jeff Potter, who took over the Lake Placid girls program following John's departure, watched his team put up quite a battle, but in the end, the Blue Bombers saw their late seven-point lead vanish as Saranac Lake rallied for the victory. Facing a 28-21 deficit early in the fourth quarter, the Red Storm outscored the Blue Bombers 12-2 the rest of the way to improve to 3-3 overall, while Lake Placid dropped to 1-5 with the loss.
Saranac Lake’s Jenny Ward, left, and Alexis Megliore of Lake Placid battle for possession during Monday’s game. Ward scored seven points and Megliore netted four in the contest.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Katelyn Hewitt took over in overtime, scoring all five of Saranac Lake's points in the extra period. The junior guard had been shut out in the second half after scoring six points prior to the intermission, but in overtime, she knocked down three of four free-throw attempts and drained a jump shot to pace the Red Storm. She finished with a game-high 11 points.
During the rally, Saranac Lake had ample opportunity to surge ahead in regulation, but struggled at the line, hitting just 2-of-13 free-throw attempts in the second half.
"We missed a lot of foul shots but we got them when we needed them," said Johns, who wrapped up his coaching career at Lake Placid three seasons ago with a championship team. "Lake Placid is a much-improved team since we saw them in a scrimmage at the beginning of the year. I got the most out of everyone on our team to get this win, and it took 35 minutes to get it done."
Chloe Uebrick led Lake Placid with 10 points. She netted six of those in the opening half to help the Blue Bombers carry a 19-14 lead into intermission. Lake Placid extended its edge to eight points by opening the second half with a 9-5 run and grabbed its biggest lead of the game, eight points, when Adele Jesmer sank one of two foul shots with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
Saranac Lake then took over and held the Blue Bombers to four points the rest of the way.
Saranac Lake senior point guard Jenny Ward scored the point that eventually sent the game into overtime when she drained her first of two foul shot attempts with 1:31 left in regulation to forge a 28-28 tie. Neither team could score in regulation, although the Blue Bombers did get off two shots from in close during the final 2.2 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Hewitt took control in overtime. She gave Saranac Lake a 30-28 edge on a pair of successful foul shots with 1:11 gone in the extra period, and extended the Red Storm lead to four points when she drained a jump shot with 1:50 left on the clock. Hewitt connected on one more free throw with 45 seconds remaining for the game's final point.
"Obviously, it was a tough loss, but I'll take a game like this from my girls any time," Potter said. "I think the most disappointing thing tonight was we missed a lot of easy opportunities, but we put up a fight. It's all part of the learning curve. Hats off to Frank and his kids. They didn't quit."
Returning to the gym where he led some strong girls teams, Johns got quite a surprise prior to the matchup. During warmups, some players from the last Blue Bombers squad he coached joined the Lake Placid girls in pre-game drills.
"I think having those girls out there inspired our kids," Potter said. "This was the best game we've played this season.
"Coming back here brought back a lot of memories," Johns said. "It was fun seeing those girls out there before the game. I'm just glad we didn't have to play against them."
Senior Katie Buckley chipped in nine points for Saranac Lake, but her biggest contribution was on the boards. She hauled down a whopping 19 rebounds in the contest. Ward added seven points in the win, all in the second half, and Selena Baillargenon added five first-half points for the Red Storm. Cheyenne Blair was Lake Placid's next-highest scorer, finishing with eight points, which included the Blue Bombers' lone basket in overtime.
Saranac Lake next plays Monday at home against Plattsburgh. Lake Placid will be at home again Friday in a girls-boys varsity doubleheader against Indian Lake/Long Lake.
Saranac Lake 33, Lake Placid 30, OT
Saranac Lake (33)
McDonough 0-0-0, Hochwald 0-0-0, Moody 0-1-1, Woodruff 0-0-0, S. Buckley 0-0-0, Ward 3-1-7, Hewitt 3-5-11, Baillargeon 2-0-5, Cummings 0-0-0, Morgan 0-0-0, K. Buckley 4-1-9. Totals: 12-8-33.
Lake Placid (30)
Matos 0-0-0, Jesmer 1-1-4, Weaver 0-0-0, Potter 2-0-4, Blair 4-0-8, Uebrick 5-0-10, Barney 0-0-0, Megliore 2-0-4. Totals: 14-1-30.
Three-point goals: Saranac Lake (1), Baillargeon. Lake Placid (1), Jesmer.