SALADO — Macie Smith was 0 for 3 and had just missed her first 3-point attempt with her team down one in the final minutes at Salado on Tuesday.
Yet when Salado turned the ball over after rebounding her first miss, the sophomore didn’t hesitate to hoist one from downtown again when the ball was kicked back out to her seconds later.
“I’ve been working on them a lot, and I shot my first one, and I felt it was close,” Smith said. “And I got the, I guess you could say, courage to get the other one.”
That courage paid off as Smith nailed her only field goal of the game, a 3-pointer that put Academy ahead for good in a 46-41 victory against Salado at Salado gymnasium.
The 3-pointer, which came with 2:55 remaining in the game, was also the Lady Bees’ first of the game and proved contagious when Kelby Sprinkles hit a second one with 1:35 to play that all but iced the game.
“She’s just a sophomore, and she’s still trying to figure those things out,” Academy coach Brian Pursche said of Smith, “and once she realizes how to do a better job of just game management and controlling the tempo and stuff she’s going to do a lot of good things for us.”
Salado, meanwhile, scored just one point after a Jaylee Sebek 3-pointer put the Lady Eagles ahead 40-38 with 5:20 remaining in the final quarter.
Salado nearly erased a 36-31 deficit entering the fourth after hitting all three of its 3-pointers in the final period but ultimately wasn’t able to hold on.
“I always tell them to be ready to catch and shoot the ball regardless of if you’re a post or whatever,” Salado coach Diane Konarik said. “If they’re not going to play tough on you be ready to shoot the ball. And they stepped up tonight and they shot.”
Pursche said in preparing for the Lady Eagles’ slashing offense he emphasized helpside defense to his team.
The Lady Bees responded by collapsing heavily on Salado ballhandlers anytime they went to the basket, which Konarik said threw her team for a loop.
“At the very beginning I think it hurt us a little bit,” Konarik said. “We didn’t know really what to do.
“We picked up hitting the (3-pointers) and making them come outside.”
After entering the half tied at 24, Academy (12-7, 4-2 in District 22-2A) seized control of the game by scoring the first six points of the second half.
The lead grew to as many as seven before Salado entered the fourth down 36-31 and shooting 34 percent.
Yet after going 0 for 2 from downtown in the first three quarters, the Lady Eagles canned three straight, including one by Ashley Adams -- who had a team-high 13 points — to tie it at 37 with 6:24 to play and the one by Sebek to put Salado up 40-38 with 5:20 to play.
It was the Lady Eagles’ first lead since the second quarter and their last of the game.
On the next possession, Kelsey Sprinkles tied the game on a pair of free throws that capped an impressive 25-point, 14-rebound performance.
“That’s what she’s been doing for us all season long,” Pursche said. “She just stays after it, she just continues to follow her shot and grab boards and just try to finish every play.”
Then with 2:55 remaining in the game, Smith put her team up for good with her timely 3-pointer, which she had no doubt was going in.
“After I got close to the other one I knew the next one was going to be in,” she said.
Salado, meanwhile, fell to .500 in league play (15-6, 3-3) heading into a road date with Florence on Friday.
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562