By Dan Hardenbrook
The 2022-2023 season has been quite the adventure for the Engadine Lady Eagles, and it took its latest wild twist and turn late last week. With a high scoring star in Leah French on one side, and a run-and-gun, aggressive Brimley team on the other, many expected a high scoring shootout.
That assumption must have included both head coaches, as Roger French and Matt Bathey both came in with difficult defensive schemes that stole the show in one of the lowest scoring games in the entire U.P. this season. In the end, Engadine was a single shot better, beating the Bays 26-25 in EUP Conference action.
That one single shot came in the final seconds from a sometimes overlooked senior stepping on the Eagle’s Nest floor for one of her final times. It was Bryce Zdebski’s big moment, as she sank the first of two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to put the Lady Eagles ahead.
“That was such a special moment!” exclaimed Coach Roger French, whose expectations were tempered coming in after Bays beat Engadine by nearly 30 points in their previous matchup. “The game plan was pretty simple tonight. Play tough man defense, run, and have fun. I told the girls if we win, we win; and if we lose, we can learn from it.”
The win was made that much sweeter by the fact that it was Zdebski, one of the hardest working and most dedicated players, who had a moment to shine and seal the win.
“Bryce deserved that point, and I couldn’t be happier for her and with her solid performance tonight,” said French. The game-winning free throw was the only point Zdebski scored, but none was bigger for the Lady Eagles, who needed the boost after a rare off night from Leah French, who was the focus of Brimley’s defensive efforts.
French finished with 19 of the 26 points, and Hali Butkovich hit a pair of threes to pick up the other six points. With their offense struggling, Engadine turned to their defense to keep them in the contest. Neither side shot well, and both teams had trouble handling different press set from the opponent, but in the end, it was a key play in a key area that set up Zdebski’s big moment.
“It was a low scoring defensive battle for us tonight, and that meant there was a fight for rebounds,” explained French.
Engadine had another shot to win the game with 4.4 seconds remaining, but missed the chance to take the lead. That’s when Zdebski stepped in and stepped up. She grabbed the biggest rebound of the night and sent a last-second shot towards the rim. It missed, but the whistle blew, sending her to the line. Zdebski made sure she wouldn’t miss again.
On her eighth rebound of the night, Bryce got her big shot. As the shot sank, Zdebski pumped both fists, sending the Bays home with a loss and completing one more highlight to remember from this remarkable season.