JACKSON — For the past three years, Jackson’s Katelyn Webb has been the heart and soul of the Ironladies’ basketball program.
Through the good and the bad, she’s been a staple of the lineup and tasked with shouldering a ton of responsibility on both sides of the ball.
With all the years of losses, it was only a matter of time before she was going to have her big moment in the spotlight.
Saturday was that moment.
With 18.4 seconds left, Mattie Walburn had the ball in her hands, drove into the lane, found Webb in the left corner, and she put the shot up.
“We’ve been working a lot on attacking the basket, just keeping your head down and driving,” Walburn said. “I just saw the open lane, kicked it out to Katelyn and started praying the whole time the ball was in the air.”
Nothing but net. Pure nylon. And the biggest shot of her career, a triple for the lead and ultimately the 30-29 victory over Chillicothe in FAC action.
“We haven’t been shooting the ball very well recently, so we’ve practiced shooting it with a hand directly in your face,” Webb said. “Just doing that in practice has helped my confidence, so I just stepped up and I had the most confidence in the world once I got the ball and let it fly.”
In what could be argued as the biggest win for Jackson in recent memory, the victory also puts it in first place atop the FAC for the time being.
“That Miami Trace loss pushed us even harder to want this victory. We had that game and didn’t convert our shots late,” Webb said. “We knew nothing was going to be easy, but we had to come out strong and get the job done.”
Though her final shot is what the game will be remembered for, Webb wasted no time getting Jackson going.
She went on a personal 5-0 run to put it ahead 7-4, but Chillicothe answered back with a 5-0 run of its own to take a 9-7 lead after the first quarter.
An offensive struggle ensued for the next eight minutes as neither team could buy a basket. Whether it was from 10-feet or two-feet, the ball was not favoring either team.
Tied at 13 with just a few seconds left, Walburn got the loose ball and drained the midrange jumper at the buzzer to put the Ironladies up by two at halftime.
“I’m so proud of these girls. The work they’ve put in to get to this point is incredible,” Jackson coach Matt Walburn said. “To win the first half of the season in the FAC is awesome, and it’s a position we haven’t been in since (Jackson assistant coach) Madison (Jones) played for me years ago. There’s still a long way to go, but the girls deserve to have this feeling, especially our two seniors who have stuck through everything.”
Chillicothe opened the second half with five straight points to take an 18-15 lead. However, the Ironladies answered back with a 7-2 run, capped by a pair of free throws from Mattie Walburn for a 22-20 advantage heading to the fourth.
Everything was set up for a showdown in the final frame, one that was filled with countless moments.
No lead was greater than one possession as both teams traded leads. Chillicothe scored on a deep triple from Emma Fromm to take a 26-23 lead, before Jackson later trimmed it down to 28-27.
After the Cavaliers split a pair of free throws to go up two points, it set up Jackson for the shot of the year from Webb before getting a defensive stop to close out for the win.
“We finally made a shot and got a stop when we needed it the most,” Matt Walburn said. “The biggest for us was making sure that (Chillicothe’s Jacey) Harding didn’t get an open look to get a shot off. We played a great defensive 18 seconds to prevent a shot, got a steal and dribble it out. Such a great win for our girls.”
Webb finished with 13 points and five rebounds, while Mattie Walburn added 10 points.
Kenzie Davis had four points and 12 rebounds.