RAVENSWOOD -Don't tell Ritchie County coach Dave McCullough that Cinderellas are made in February.
Wednesday night in a Class AA, Region I, Section 2 semifinal at Ravenswood High School, the fifth-seeded Rebels upset the top-seeded Red Devils 63-61 in overtime.
Regardless of what happens in its sectional final on Friday at Webster County, Ritchie County is guaranteed a regional game next Thursday.
"This is the second season and everybody has a chance again," McCullough said. "If we can get this win (on Friday) and get a home game for regionals, our home fans will be livid. I don't care if it is North Marion or Fairmont Senior. I want a shot at them."
The Rebels won their fourth straight game and improved to 8-14 behind the ballhandling of Vanessa Tallman, who finished with a game-high 29 points. Three of those points occurred on a half-court bank shot just as time expired in the first half.
"After this win, I think we have all the confidence in the world," Tallman said.
The loss was hard to comprehend for Ravenswood (16-5), especially since its top player, Hailey Miller, suffered a severe knee injury early in the fourth quarter.
Her absence changed the complexion of the game and the Red Devils were never quite the same.
"Our offense runs through Hailey and I think we kind of panicked a little bit when we lost her - I think the kids were kind of thinking about that," Ravenswood coach Cara Williams said.
On two occasions, Ritchie County trailed by as many as 14 points. A bucket from Mariah Jackson with 1:24 remaining before halftime put Ravenswood in front 26-12.
The Rebels then answered with a 9-0 run before the halftime buzzer sounded, including Tallman's last-ditch 3-pointer.
"If I had to bet 100 dollars, I don't think I would make that one again," Tallman said. "I don't even remember where I was on the court, but I did see the clock and there was two seconds left. I just had enough time to turn, and as soon as I threw it up I saw that I made it. It was amazing."
Before the injury, Miller was effective not only as a scorer but she also handed out four assists in the third quarter as the Red Devils opened a 46-32 cushion with 2:31 showing in the period. Miller finished the game with 14 points and five assists. The final assist on Taylor Treadway's field goal left Ritchie County trailing 50-40.
Moments later with Ravenswood nursing a 50-42 advantage at the 6:02 mark of the fourth quarter, Miller fell to the floor holding her right knee - the same knee which gave her trouble and caused a delay in the third period. A paramedic attended to Miller and wrapped the knee and iced it down, but the junior had to be helped off the floor.
"I have a feeling the (severity) of the injury is not going to be good," Williams added.
When play resumed, Ritchie County chipped away with Tallman providing the firepower. The junior accounted for 15 points in the fourth quarter as the two sides remained tied at 58 at the end of regulation.
A putback by Ritchie County post player Kylie Gump opened the scoring in overtime. The senior finished with nine points and 15 rebounds.
A free throw by Tallman pushed the margin to three at 61-58, but Haylie Reynolds knocked down a pair from the charity stripe to narrow the gap to 61-60 with 27 seconds showing.
Olivia Vanoy and Tallman each added a free throw to push the lead back to 63-60. With eight seconds to go, Reynolds made the back-end of a two-shot foul. On the inbounds, Tallman gathered it in and the Red Devils were unable to foul as Tallman dribbled out the remaining seconds.
Treadway also scored in double figures with 14 points, while Ritchie County's first reserve off the bench, Stephanie Kirk, finished with 12 points.
"We really felt we had a shot to be in Charleston this year," Williams said. "We felt we had the talent and the ability to get there, so it's tough. It's an early end to the season we weren't expecting, but there's a silver lining that we have everybody back for next season."