WAVERLY — Not once, but twice on Saturday, Lynchburg-Clay senior McKayla Binkley sank baskets that kept the Lady Mustangs’ season alive. The first was a 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation, forcing overtime against the Fairland Lady Dragons. Then came a shot that floated in the basket with seconds remaining in overtime of the Division III SE District Finals.
In the win at the Waverly Gym, the Lady Mustangs earned their second straight district championship, plus it was the second consecutive year that LC defeated Fairland to reach the Sweet 16.
If you ask McKayla Binkley, the modest senior was just helping her team, and in the process, she said it wasn’t just her who made the game-winning basket in overtime, but it took her entire team for the play to work the way it needed to be successful.
Binkley led LC with 24 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Binkley also added four assists, three steals and took a charge in the third quarter.
“It takes a team to execute a play,” the senior said. “We tried to set up a couple different plays, and they didn’t work. I looked up at the clock, and there was eight seconds on it. I knew we had to get a shot off, so I shot kind of a floater, because I practice them at practice, and it went in.”
Binkley also spoke about the 3-pointer that sent LC into overtime.
“The first play we set for Peyton (Scott), but of course they were guarding her because she’s the best player on the team, so that didn’t work, so I looked at the clock and there was two seconds left,” Binkley said. “I took the shot, and it went in. Again, I couldn’t have done anything without my teammates because we all executed well.”
At the end of regulation, the district final between Fairland and the Lady Mustangs was tied at 49, but the shot by Binkley came at the buzzer, forcing the overtime period.
“We were down three and knew we had to get up a good shot, and McKayla was there to do it,” LC head coach Whitney Lewis said. “That was a senior heart saying ‘we are not going to lose today, we are not going home’ and wanting to continue her career. She said ‘give me the ball,’ and you saw what happened.”
In overtime, the Lady Mustangs (22-3) took the lead back with a layup from Binkley with 2:35 on the clock, only to see Binkley put LC ahead by four points following a jumper to push LC ahead by a 55-51 score. The Lady Dragons of Fairland came back with two free throws by Allie Marshall, and with 44.8 left in OT, she tied the score at 56 with a 3-pointer.
Following a timeout by LC with 41.5 seconds left came the Binkley floater, as she drove to the paint, lifting the ball into the air and it swished through the hoop with just one second left on the clock. Fairland was unable to get a shot off in that final second, sending the Lady Mustangs back to the Sweet 16.
Hannah Binkley was second in scoring for LC in the district semifinals with 16 points (two rebounds, one steal), while Scott scored nine points (four rebounds, one steal). Completing the scoring for LC were Zoe Fittro with five points (two steals) and Lexi Waits with four points (four steals).
For the game, LC was 7-of-17 from the free-throw line, while also totaling five 3-pointers and 18 two-point baskets. The Lady Dragons totaled 13 two-point baskets, eight 3-pointers and went 6-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Fairland was led in scoring by Taylor Wilson with 13 points, while Marshall and Kelsie Warnock each finished with 11 points.
“Our defensive pressure was a success,” Lewis said. “I thought we did a great job on defense. We did a good job of pressuring the people we needed to pressure and made them make bad decisions. We had to make some good shots … we ran through our offense and got some good looks.
“These kids don’t like to lose. They’ve had success for a long time, and they didn’t want the season to end. They are looking forward to going to back to regionals. Their effort and determination (Saturday) is second to none. Credit Fairland too, nobody wanted to lose this game, and nobody wanted their season to come to an end. It was a great day of basketball.”
Getting to that point of the overtime thriller saw a total of 19 lead changes and the score tied on seven occasions.
That journey began with the Lady Mustangs trailing by a 4-0 score early in the opening frame, but five straight points from the senior trio of McKayla Binkley, Waits and Hannah Binkley left LC in the lead at 5-4 with 3:24 on the first quarter clock.
Later, LC took a 7-6 lead following two points from Scott, but later trailed by an 11-7 score. That didn’t matter as LC regained the lead once the first quarter came to a close with Scott, Fittro and McKayla Binkley scoring six straight points to take a 13-11 advantage after the opening eight minutes.
Fairland tied the score to start the second quarter, but McKayla Binkley sank a 3-pointer 32 seconds into the second frame for a 16-13 LC lead. The quarter continued with LC answering each basket made by the Lady Dragons, until FHS regained the lead at the 5:11 mark of the second with a 3-pointer.
The LC deficit didn’t last long as McKayla Binkley, Fittro (a 3-pointer) and Scott combined for a 6-0 run in less than one minute of game time for a 24-20 lead. FHS sank one 3-pointer and a two-point basket at the end of the second frame to gain a 25-24 lead at halftime.
Hannah Binkley put LC in front by one point to start the third quarter, but a steal and layup by the Lady Dragons put them right back in front with 4:20 left in the quarter. Waits answered with two points in the paint, and McKayla Binkley sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:26 left in the third for a 31-27 LC advantage.
Later, Hannah Binkley put LC back in front at 33-29 with a two-point basket while being fouled, though LC ended up leading by three points at 33-30 once the quarter came to a close.
The fourth frame was wild from start to finish with the score being tied at 35, 37 and 44 points. Then, with 4:21 left in regulation, the Lady Dragons knocked down a 3-pointer, increasing their lead to five points at 42-37. Following two points by Waits, No. 1 seeded Fairland took a six-point lead with another 3-pointer, only to see Hannah Binkley sink a 3-pointer of her own, along with a layup for a 44-44 score with 2:57 on the fourth quarter clock.
The 15th lead change of the game came the McKayla Binkley sank a layup off an inbounds pass that began with Binkley sending the ball to Waits, who sent it back to Binkley for two points, giving LC a 46-45 lead.
The lead went back to Fairland after tough points in the paint, and then their lead increased to three points following two converted free throws with 16.5 seconds left in regulation. That’s when McKayla Binkley’s 3-pointer heard ’round the SE District swished through the net, sending the game into overtime with a tied score of 49.