ST. JOHN — Staring at a 14-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Duneland Conference road contest against Lake Central, a Michigan City comeback looked suspect at best, having scored just 28 points with a period to play.
And worse, Wolves senior center Hannah Noveroske was having an uncharacteristic off night shooting from the floor and at the foul line – managing just eight points and a dismal one free throw in five attempts through three quarters.
Then suddenly, Noveroske and the Wolves awakened to make a furious comeback in the fourth quarter to force overtime and survived a pair of overtimes, before Noveroske finally put in a missed free throw with five seconds left in double overtime to lift City to a thrilling 59-57 win.
Noveroske finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Wolves (5-3, 3-0 DAC), who roared back after being down as much as 20 points with three minutes left in the third quarter to remain undefeated in the Duneland. Katelyn Halfacre (12 points) and Trinity Thompson (10 points) proved big as well.
“What a game,” City coach Mike Megyese said. “First off all: Congratulations to Lake Central. They played a heck of a game and did what they had to in order to get control. We didn’t help ourselves, but they had a little bit to do with that.
“The game plan was to get the ball inside and Hannah didn’t play well in the first half. The light bulb went on, and she played like that D-1 player that we need to play like night in and night out. She finally did that. Trinity, Halfacre and Raion Coleman all played big as well.”
Noveroske exploded for 13 points in the fourth quarter, which included eight straight points in a two-minute stretch of the fourth quarter that saw City pull within 44-40 with 3:42 left in regulation. Her game winner came off a missed free throw by Thompson.
“Oh my gosh,” Noveroske said. “I went into the locker room at halftime and told my teammates that they have to pick up the slack because I’m missing my shot. They encouraged me and told me that I have this thing. Just stay mentally and physically in the game.
“We got back into our offense and defense much better. I am so grateful that I didn’t miss that last layup. Everything was all off early on, but coach had confidence in me while I was making my shots and I knew I had to put one in for the team.”
Another big moment in the second overtime period came when Thompson stole a pass near half court and scored a transition layup to give the Wolves a 57-54 cushion with 2:57 left – points needed as Lake Central tied the contest up with 57 seconds left to set up Noveroske’s heroics.
“I was actually shocked that I made the layup because I missed half of them in the game,” Thompson said. “That was fight we put up. We knew we had to play hard or go home, so we ended up playing hard because we knew we had to walk out of here 3-0 in the conference. That was a major win for us.
The game environment was also charged with emotion, as the Lake Central team played in pink uniforms for cancer awareness – something that Megyese took note of as an added obstacle that his team had to battle.
“They had a big crowd here tonight with a lot of emotion in honor of people who suffer everyday,” he said. “For us to come through against a big crowd, that was big. We had about 20 people here cheering us on: The best 20 fans in the state tonight. I am proud of my kids.”
Noveroske admitted to being motivated to raise her game based on the jeers she was hearing from the younger crowd under the basket.
“Those Lake Central boys and girls were saying, ‘look at that big ox,’ from the seats,” she said. “I realized at that moment I needed to change up my game and be that ox and make my free throws. I actually wanted to show them that I can be an ox.”
As from the heroics from Noveroske, Thompson and Halfacre, Megyese singled out three bench players for playing a pivotal role in the comeback.
“Our players of the game were Mary Pat Kelley, Santana Sativa, and Lia Thomas,” he said. “I put those three kids in the game in the third quarter because I was angry with the play of my players. And you know what? They played admirably for about two minutes and gave our kids a chance to regroup."
And regroup City did from 2:49 left in the third.
Halfacre converted a field goal, Noveroske added a three-point play and Halfacre drained a 3-pointer for a quick 8-0 run in two minutes, which pulled the Wolves closer at 42-28 with a quarter to play.
“I am just super proud of my kids,” Megyese said. “I will be cliché: We could have folded on the road, and we didn’t. We stepped up and said we wanted to win. We need more of that. We have been a little up and down this year, and hopefully this will give us the jump start that we need.”
Michigan City 59, Lake Central 57 (2 OT)
Hannah Noveroske's putback with five seconds left in double overtime kept the Wolves unbeaten in conference play in a game they trailed by 14 to start the fourth quarter.