BOTHELL - The crowd at Bothell High School resembled a teeter-totter. One side stood and screamed while the other sat and groaned with every free throw, basket and turnover Bothell and Lake Washington produced last night in a harried game between KingCo Conference powers.
The only difference between the paying spectators and Jen Babin was that she screamed and groaned from the Bothell bench. The Cougars' All-KingCo forward fouled out with 4:48 to play in the third quarter and her team down by one. She scored six points and played 15 minutes, both meager numbers for the Bothell senior. But the deep Cougars scrapped and clawed their way past Lake Washington 58-53 in overtime to stay unbeaten.
"My heart hit bottom," Babin said. "LW is our biggest rival. I'd been looking forward to this game all week. But I was told right away as I was hanging my head not to hang my head. So I got in the game (from the bench). It was all I could do for the team."
She stood helpless as Lake Washington's Shennae McNairy, who scored 17 points, drilled a three from the top of the key to give the Kangaroos (5-2, 8-3) a 48-47 lead with 50 seconds left in regulation. She could only hold hands with teammates as Cougar junior Jennae Krell made two free throws with eight seconds left to tie the game, 49-49. And she stood again as Aurora Erickson's 15-footer seven seconds later that would have won the game for Lake Washington, bounced off the back iron.
"I was completely nervous," said McNairy, who tied Krell for scoring honors with 17 points. "My stomach was just churning. It was a game everyone wanted to win."
After an anxious first half of too many whistles, too many turnovers and too many three-second violations, both teams played like they belonged atop the standings. No lead was bigger than five points. Neither team surrendered easy baskets.
Babin bruised her head when she was pushed to the floor on a first-half jumper. Teammate Tiana Anthony and LW's Erickson crashed into the padding behind the basket on a Bothell breakaway. And Bothell's Becki Ashbaugh was called for an intentional foul in the fourth quarter trying to stop McNairy from getting to the basket.
"It was a real physical game and I like that," said Krell, who also grabbed 11 rebounds and held LW's Meghan Geddes to six points. "I thought it added to the intensity of the game.
Krell's three-point play with 1:13 left in overtime gave the Cougars a 57-53 lead and prompted her to pump both fists in the air and slap Ashbaugh on the back for the backdoor pass the set up the clinching score. Bothell never trailed in overtime after Ashbaugh's driving layin nine seconds in gave the Cougars a 51-49 lead.
"Usually we win in overtime," Ashbaugh said. "We played really well and Jennae hit some big shots."
The Cougars are more than the trio of Ashbaugh, Babin and Krell, however. Ten Cougars played and junior Nicole McCain, a 6-foot-1 forward, scored 11 points and corraled 11 rebounds with Babin on the bench.
"Jen is a really good defensive player and a big part of our offense," McCain said. "But we stepped it up a level. We made it work. And Jen was a big support to us on our bench."
Babin smiled and laughed bashfully about her unusual role afterward. Winning made sitting easier to take. But she hopes it never happens again.