By Jeff Robison Flyer Correspondent
---- — As a senior for the Ben Davis girls’ basketball team, Danielle Cuttino knows much is expected of her. Taking that responsibility to heart against the visiting Pike Red Devils, Cuttino came through for her team by hitting a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds left to give the Giants a 46-45 victory Saturday afternoon.
Ben Davis entered the final minute of the contest trailing 45-42, and the Giants looked to Cuttino as its option of choice. The Giants drew back within a point on their first possession as Cuttino dribbled across the lane and to the basket for an unchallenged layup.
Following a missed free throw by Pike’s Alyssa Clay, Ben Davis coach Joe Lentz called Cuttino’s number a second time for the same play. Though challenged on the second attempt, Cuttino drew a foul from Lyndsey Edwards and calmly hit both attempts for the victory.
The end result drew a big smile from Lentz, who now stands at 299 career coaching wins.
“This was hump that we needed to get over, beating a good team,” Lentz said. “Our kids played very hard and very smart. We finally understood that when we play hard, we play better.”
Cuttino made Saturday her day. Prior to the game, she was recognized for earning All-America second team honors for volleyball.
Fittingly, she was also ready for the spotlight at the end of the game as she reclaimed the “Queen of the County” toolbox that Pike had just taken from Lawrence North earlier in the week. The last time Ben Davis took possession was two years ago, also against Pike and also on a game winning play from Cuttino.
“I knew that I needed to make the change for the game and make plays as a senior,” Cuttino said. “On the first play, they did not guard me, so I decided to do the same thing again. Then, I got the foul (on the second play). I was so nervous to make the free throws, but I stayed calm and put them in.”
Neither team was able to gain any real separation throughout the contest. Pike did take the game’s biggest lead early in the second quarter after Brittany Ward scored a rebound basket that put the Red Devils up 22-16.
However, Ben Davis responded with an 8-0 run in response to Ward’s basket, and the Giants led 26-25 at halftime. Ben Davis’ run was built on the inside game with Cuttino and sophomore Ae’Rianna Harris providing key points.
Pike opened the second half with a tightly packed zone defense, which caused the Giants problems until Adaleena Sibande hit a pair of three pointers to nullify that strategy.
“Pike played the type of defense that I would have played against us, too.” Lentz said. “(Sibande’s) baskets were crucial. She has struggled from the three-point line this year, but those were very timely.”
In the final quarter, the Red Devils made threast to claim victory after scoring consecutive transition baskets from Ciera Finch and Tyana Robinson to go up 43-39.
However, Pike’s follow up strategy to drain the clock went awry. The Giants kept pressure on the Red Devils when Sibande cashed in a 3-point play after Cuttino made a steal on the other end, while Clay’s missed free throw gave Ben Davis a final chance to win.
Balanced scoring won out for the Giants who were led by Sibande’s 13 points, but also marked up Cuttino (six steals), Harris, and Kenisha Jones with seven points each. Those numbers offset the Pike duo of Ward (19 points) and Robinson (16), who combined for 35 points.
Ben Davis improved to 10-4 with the victory, and can give Lentz his 300th career win at North Central on Tuesday night. Pike dropped to 11-7 with the defeat.