Lisa Rodriquez has been to the mountaintop when it comes to high school athletics.
The Aurora Central Catholic senior was a sprint-relay state champion two years ago at Aurora Christian in track and field.
Thursday night in Westchester, Rodriquez, a returning member of the ACC Class 2A state-trophy girls basketball team, hit arguably the biggest shot of her career to tie Nazareth in the waning seconds of the St. Joseph Class 3A regional championship.
But the heroics Rodriquez authored were eclipsed at the buzzer as Nazareth senior guard Kayla Freeman hit a 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Roadrunners past the Chargers 47-44.
In the process, Rodriquez had her prep basketball career come to a screeching halt.
The feeling of victory and the agony of loss could not have been more pronounced.
“It’s a great feeling,” Freeman said of her jump shot from the left wing as the clock registered double zero. “It was a team effort the whole game. We stayed strong and never gave up.”
Rodriquez, who scored a game-high 17 points, not only found nothing but nylon with 4 clutch free throws in the final 1:32 to tie the game at 40-all but also hit a 12-foot jumper off the glass to forge yet another tie at 44-44 with 10 seconds to play.
“I knew I would hit that shot,” Rodriquez said. “I’m not a captain for nothing. I left it all out there for the team. The last two years have been the two greatest years of my life.”
Aurora Central Catholic (14-14) clawed its way back against the Roadrunners (15-13) the entire fourth quarter.
Trailing by 9 points late in the third quarter, ACC went to work as Rodriquez nailed a 3-pointer and Alex DeCraene — who ironically attended Nazareth as a freshman — and Alex Horton converted 4 combined free throws to close out a quarter-ending 7-0 run.
The fourth quarter was nip and tuck the entire way as Rodriquez hit 4 straight free throws to reverse a Nazareth 40-36 lead.
But Nazareth post Tetre’anah Cross converted a 3-point play with 59 seconds remaining to seemingly put the Roadrunners in command.
Aurora Central would not wilt, though.
Rodriquez made it a 1-point game with 54 seconds to play with two more ice-in-the-veins free throws.
Devinne Love split a pair at the line moments later to give Nazareth a 44-42 lead, only to have Rodriquez answer in the ultimate fashion with her classic bucket off the window in the paint under heavy duress.
Nazareth, though, quickly inbounded the ball, and Freeman arched her 3-pointer from downtown.
The result was all-net as time expired to end the Chargers’ season, a far cry shorter from last year when the season ended in the third-place game at Illinois State University in Normal.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Aurora Central coach Mark Fitzgerald said. “We were there the whole game.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.