On Wednesday, March 28, the Fightin’ Planets of Mars stole and sealed their first ever state title over the Vikings of Archbishop Wood 36-33 with a last second miracle.
The Vikings called a timeout with 40 seconds on the clock, with the ball in their hands and the score tied at 33. They took some time to draw up a play to try to cap off their season with a state title.
They held the ball for about 30 seconds, trying to make sure they get the last shot off. With less than 10 seconds left, Mars junior Tai Johnson stole the ball away from Vikings senior Katie May and started driving with full force to the basket. It was a foot race for the game winning basket. May caught Johnson from behind and Johnson threw up an acrobatic lefty layup as she was fouled. It bounced off the glass, bounced off the rim a couple of times and dropped through the net to give the Planets a 2-point lead, and a free throw to come with four seconds remaining. The crowd erupted in awe.
“I fumbled the ball a little, but was able to get a grip and put the ball up strong and got it to fall,” Johnson said about her game-winning layup.
Johnson calmed herself and sunk the free throw as well. The Vikings heaved a half court prayer, but it was Mars storming the court at the final buzzer.
Johnson missed the go-ahead bucket with 50 seconds left, but found redemption in heroic fashion in the end. She finished the game with 10 points and three steals. It was Johnson coming in clutch at the end.
“It’s extra special. Not everyone gets to win a state championship, but to win it with a sibling out there is more special,” Johnson said about winning it with her freshman sister Alek out there with her.
Sophomore Bella Pelaia led Mars with 14 points. Moreover, Pelaia nailed a clutch go-ahead 3-pointer with less than two minutes to play.
Mars made the shots when it mattered, but both offenses struggled. Mars shot only 32 percent from the floor. The Vikings were worse, only making 25 percent of their shots. The Vikings did not have any players score double digits. Mars held the Vikings to seven points in the last three quarters of play.
In a game with not much offense or scoring, a key difference was free throws. Mars shot a good 85 percent from the strip, making 12-of-14. The Vikings got to the stripe less often and made less. They only made 6-of-10.