BY CORY WOODROOF
Sydney Mickulin is going to remember this basket.
In a split last second of the 12-AA district championship, her Nolensville Lady Knights intercepted an inbound Marshall County pass and got her the ball. Right before the buzzer, she popped the ball in for a layup to even the score and get Nolensville four extra minutes of basketball.
“I saw the ball loose, and it hit like five different people’s hands, and I just thought, ‘grab it and score,'” Mickulin said. “That’s the only thing that was going through my mind, and honestly, I was just so happy whenever we tied it up.”
Nolensville would ride a few more gasps and clutch shots in overtime to get the 49-46 victory out at tournament site Forrest High School and bring back the young school’s first district title for girls basketball.
“It’s another thing to check off our list,” Nolensville head coach Chris Ladd said of bringing the plaque home. “We had some goals, and this is one of them. We got the regular season and the tournament, and hopefully, we’ll keep it going, and check off some more.”
Mickulin, who finished the night with 14 and was named the tourney’s MVP, also made a key three down the stretch in overtime to help ice the win.
Ladd said he feels the clutch gene is very much in Mickulin’s mentality.
“I think we believe [in her] more than she does sometimes to have the confidence to make those shots,” he said. “If you watch my face throughout the game, a lot of times, I’m yelling ‘Shoot the ball, Sydney! Shoot the ball!,’ and a lot of times, she gives it up…she can [make the big shots]. That’s the kind of player she is, and we want her to do those things.”
The game started out tough for Nolensville, who wound up down 21-13 with two quarters in.
At one point in the third quarter, the Lady Knights were down ten without a lot going offensively when, seemingly out of nowhere, the team sparked a 12-0 run and took a lead.
“We were just more motivated,” Mickulin said of the run. “We know we didn’t play our best in the first half, so we just wanted to excel and bring up our intensity and get a stop…we really wanted this, and I think that’s what helped us.”
Ladd said the game embodies a running theme with the team this season.
“I feel like Marshall just sort of punched us in the mouth, and we were back on our heels the whole first half,” he said. “I felt like we would be able to make a run if we could just sort of contain ourselves a little bit and play a little more physical. We did that, and it was just a matter of making some shots, which we did.
“We’ve kind of been in that spot all year. We’ve been down and able to come back, so I knew we could do it. I was excited to see it happen quick and early.”
The Lady Knights built a little lead of their own into the fourth, only to see the Tigerettes get back and ride a little momentum late.
Things looked dour for Nolensville late in the game, but the team got a perfect break with just a moment to spare to get back in and force extra basketball — extra basketball they made the most of.
The Lady Knights were runners up in the district to Community last year before eventually winning the region, so Monday night’s 12-AA district title fight with Marshall Co. was a chance to make a little more history. Make it they did.
Junior standout Grace Baird, a WillCo Basketball Player of the Year finalist, led the team in scoring with 16, while Parker Leftwich had 13. They were both, along with Mikulin, were on the All-Tournament team.
Baird was named 12-AA’s MVP, and she, Leftwich, Caymin Ladd and Zoe Piller, who had an unfortunate exit from the season with injury, were named All-District players. Ladd was named Coach of the Year.
From here on, Nolensville will attempt a region repeat. That road starts at home Friday night against Hickman Co.