It was a "must" win.
The Lehighton girls played with "fire" in their eyes for most of Saturday night's crucial Mountain Valley Conference battle against defending league champ Pocono Mountain West and then some.
With at least three chances to tuck away the win, however, the Lady Indians saw the Panthers (14-8, 10-2) fight back each time to eventually pull out a 42-41 double overtime win.
It was crushing to say the least as it dropped Lehighton to 9-11 overall and a 5-7 league record. A win would have qualified the Indians for the district playoffs. Now they would have to either beat Tamaqua (Wendesday) and Tri-Valley (not rescheduled yet) or win the MVC playoff championship to make it to District 11 play.
"It stings," said Lehighton head coach Tony Thomas afterwards. "Especially when we know what's at stake. We don't know what's going to happen with the next two games that were postponed earlier with the weather situation and now the conference playoffs are coming up. I guess it depends on the PIAA and its rules about when you have to get games in."
Vanessa Rimbey put the Indians up by three to start the second overtime when she was fouled on a driving layup and added the free throw.
Samantha Fuss, who scored five of her nine points for the Panthers in the second overtime, matched Rimbey's feat to tie it at 40-40.
With 46.6 seconds left, Jordyn Homyak drove the lane and was fouled, making one of two to give the Indians the lead back again by one and after a jump ball gave possession back to Lehighton 13 seconds later, the Indians were in control.
The tide turned however, when Homyak went for the game-clincher on another drive with 25 seconds remaining and the Panthers grabbed the rebound as it bounced off the rim.
After three missed shots as time was winding down, Fuss was fouled on another attempt with four seconds remaining. She calmly sank both free throws and a desperation shot by Karista Schweizer for the Indians against a tough PM West defense at the buzzer fell short to end it.
The Indians had even a better chance to win it at the end of the first overtime. Leading by three (37-34), they saw Brittani Guerre throw up a three-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded as she fell out of bounds that drew nothing but net to tie it up again.
Lehighton took a 8-5 lead after the first quarter as Homyak scored seven of her game-high 20 points. The Indians went cold in the second quarter and trailed 16-12 at halftime. The bounced back to pull within two in the third stanza and in the fourth quarter, the game was tied four times with Sheena White's driving basket knotting things up with 1:14 left in regulation, sending it to OT.
"We played an OK first quarter, terrible second quarter, picked it up again in the third quarter, outstanding in the fourth quarter and in the overtime you couldn't ask for a better effort," said Thomas. "They have the heart and the character and they don't give up and I'm proud of them for that."
White's 10 points backed up Homyak for the Indians. Katie Schickling scored 12 points and Brittani Guerre added 11 for the Panthers (14-8; 10-2 MVC).
Now the Indians draw top-seed East Stroudsburg South in the first round of the MVC playoffs on Tuesday. The other game will feature Pocono Mountain West versus Pocono Mountain East.
K. Schickling 5-0-0-12, McKillop 3-0-0-6, Guerre 4-2-2-11, J. Schickling 1-0-0-2, Fuss 3-3-3-9, Clark 0-2-2-2. Totals: 16-7-7-42.
Homyak 6-7-10-20, McCullion 0-0-0-0, Smith 0-0-0-0, Schwiezer 1-0-0-2, Rimbey 2-1-1-5, Teno 2-0-0-4, White 4-2-4-10. Totals: 15-10-15-41.
PM West 5 11 8 6 7 5 - 42
Lehighton 8 4 10 8 7 4 - 41
Three-pointers: PMW - K. Schickling 2, Guerre 1; L - Homyak 1.