STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
Despite their meeting one game prior to the finals, the third season meeting between Page and Dickson County carried every bit the championship feel—right down to a buzzer-beating three to send the game into overtime and a soft-spoken hero emerging in the end.
Dickson County’s KK Curtis made the most of a broken inbound play, squeezing her way inside Page’s stingy defense to field an inbound pass from Caty Roberts to score the game-winning basket in a 63-62 overtime thriller over the Lady Patriots, Wednesday evening at Brentwood High School.
The junior swing posted a double-double on the night, scoring 11 points and 13 rebounds, none bigger than her basket with barely 0:06 to go in overtime.
“Not the play we called, but (Curtis and Roberts) made me look like a genius,” admitted Dickson County first-year head coach Erin Webb of their final play on offense. “The play we called, (Page coach Ron) Brock had them well coached and they knew what was coming.”
The original play called for a baseline dish to Olivia Rinehart, who led all scorers with 28 points including four in overtime. When that didn’t work, Roberts went with the only Lady Cougar she saw open.
“Olivia went one way, KK went another and Caty just found her,” Webb noted of the sequence which propelled Dickson to the Region 6-AAA finals.
Getting there was as emotional a ride as you can ask for in a semifinals game, one that saw the bleachers packed with enthusiastic supporters from both schools.
There was little separation at any point in a game between the District 11-AAA powerhouses, who split their regular season meetings but with the rubber match not coming until the season was on the line for both.
Page’s 18-game win streak came to an end at the worst possible time, losing by double digits to Brentwood in the district semifinals. Ever since then, the Lady Patriots have played like a team on a mission, with threats at every position but boldly led by Faith Wilken.
The super senior and Trevecca commit delivered yet another otherworldly performance in a high school career filled with incredible moments. Page’s all-time leading scorer was held to a relatively quiet seven first-half points, but her presence everywhere else went a long way in giving the Lady Patriots a narrow one-point halftime lead.
“The thing about Faith, she’s just not a scorer; she fills up all of the stats,” said Brock, who has coached since 1983 and ranks the senior fairly close to the top of his all-time list. “She’s gonna get a ton of rebounds. She’s gonna get steals and assists. She’s not just a scorer.”
It was evident in her final line, posting a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while also swiping five steals. Wilken also played all 36 minutes on the night, the last eight of them with four fouls but still finding ways to surpass the exceedingly high standards others set for her.
In a game with 16 ties and lead changes, Wilken proved an imposing presence in nearly every possession down the stretch, scoring 14 of her team-high 22 in the 4th quarter and overtime, to go along with 13 points from her freshman sister and floor general Lily Wilken.
The elder Wilken opened the final quarter with a customary deep three to tie the game at 40-40, mere moments after a Curtis basket extended Dickson’s lead late in the 3rd quarter.
A three pointer by senior swing and Bethel commit Ryann Roberts reclaimed the lead for the Lady Cougars, but a fast break by McKenzie Cochran (11 points, five rebounds) ignited an 8-0 run which for the moment felt like a prelude to a Page surge to the finals.
Of course, Dickson County’s team and fans didn’t travel 41 miles west on a school night just to fade away. Separate 4-0 runs from both teams left Page ahead 51-47 inside of the final two minutes, only to leave room for what was thought to be one last Lady Cougars run.
Five straight points—capped by a pair of free throws from Curtis gave Dickson a three-point with just 2.4 seconds to go. Page called a timeout to draw up one last play, a moment which admittedly left the Lady Patriots’ head coach briefly stumped—and open to a suggestion from his team leader.
“I couldn’t tell if they would come out in a man-to-man or a zone,” Brock admitted. “I was kind of fumbling in my mind what I wanted to do and (Faith) said let’s run stack outside. It’s designed for her to catch and shoot.”
Wilken did just that, planting her feet outside of the three-point line right in front of the Page bench and finding nothing but the bottom of net at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Even with the threat of it being a momentum killer, Dickson’s coaching staff couldn’t help but be in awe of the moment.
“When she hit that shot, I’m not gonna lie, the first thing I thought was ‘good for her,’” admitted Webb. “She’s a senior, she’s clearly super talented and she made a good shot. They found the one player they needed, she found her shot and put the ball in. It could have not been more perfectly timed and good for her.”
The Wilkens were responsible for the first five points of overtime, Lily scoring on the first possession and Faith draining a three to give Page a five-point lead with 2:30 to go. The long-range bomb was preceded by a timely blocked shot from senior center Olivia Wilson, who had five of them on the game and at the time none bigger than stuffing Rinehart’s shot down low.
Rinehart would get sweet justice on the next two possessions, scoring on a short jumper and then getting Wilson to follow out on a drive to the basket. The subsequent free throws cut Page’s lead to two, but a basket from Faith Wilken extended to four with 1:10 to go but also with the Lady Patriots out of timeouts.
The usual scoring threats on Dickson County remained locked down on the ensuing possession, leaving the door open for a momentum-shaking three-pointer from Roberts inside of the final minute of overtime.
“Coach Webb also tells me whenever I see an opening, there’s nothing to lose by taking the shot,” said Roberts, whose drawn constructive criticism throughout the season for not shooting enough. Her aggression spilled over on defense, wisely fouling energetic sophomore guard Delaney Noe as time was winding down (8 points, 7 assists). who missed the front-end of a one-and-one.
Dickson rebounded and had one last shot at a come-from-behind win, which led to the play they never quite got to execute. With Rinehart well guarded as well as their next option in Reagen Purvine (10 points, five rebounds), Curtis managed to wedge her way just inside the grounded defense provided by Cochran to provide the game-winner with just 0:06.
Without a chance to discuss one final play, Page’s offense was forced to race down court. Cochran hustled past the half-court line, dishing the ball to Noe who hit a well-guarded Faith Wilken on the opposite end. A desperation heave by Wilken fell short as time expired, finally allowing the Lady Cougars to exhale—while the Lady Patriots watched their record-breaking season come to an anti-climactic close.
“We had a really good season,” Brock said of a squad who went 29-5 this year. “We tied the school record for most wins in school history. We went down in Florida and won a tournament. The seniors I got was my first group (having begun with Page in the 2015-16 season), they came in when I came in through the door. So yeah, I was a little teary.”
On the other side were tears of joy, but quickly gathered as Dickson prepares for Wednesday’s Region 6-AAA finals versus Ravenwood at Brentwood High School. Both teams are guaranteed a place in the sub-state tournament, but only the region winner gets to host a home game.
“I asked the girls in the beginning of the season to list their goals,” Webb noted. “The first was to win the district tournament and we did that. The next was to win regions and host a sectional game at home. I tell you, hosting one of those games at Dickson County is something I’ve had the chance to appreciate as a fan. It is incredible.
“You saw the crowd tonight. Imagine that at our gym, Cougar pride is amazing. They know there’s another game and another team standing in our way. We have to get right back to work. We have a really big game against Ravenwood and cannot overlook them.”