VALMEYER — In the midst of a long injury plagued and often times challenging season, the Lebanon Greyhounds are going home to play again.
Sophomore Kara Koester led a balanced attack with 14 points while several teammates stepped up and made big plays as Lebanon held off Metro-East Lutheran 55-51 on Thursday in the title game of the Class 1A Valmeyer Regional.
The Greyhounds (17-9), who led 39-34 after three quarters and maintained their advantage throughout the final period, fought off several Knights' comeback attempts in a frantic final four minutes.
But it wasn't until senior Hailey Cummings made one of two free throws with 3.4 seconds left that Lebanon could start celebrating its first regional title since 2006.
"It feels really good," Cummings said. "We've had to overcome a lot this season with injuries, but we stayed together and fought through it."
Freshman Mallory Schmitt added 11 points, while junior Ellie Krumsieg chipped in with 10 for the Greyhounds, who will host the Class 1A Sectional semifinals Monday.
Lebanon will take on Carrollton, which defeated Winchester 58-54 in the title game of the Greenfield Regional
"We get to play at least one more game at home and that's what we wanted to do," Lebanon coach Doug Schieppe said. "We didn't play that well a couple of days ago, but tonight we came in focused and ready to go.
"This team has had to fight through some adversity and injuries the last couple of years, but they kept on battling all the way. I'm as proud as I can be of them."
Having difficulty from the outset with the Knights' strong pressure, Lebanon was guilty of 25 turnovers.
While Schieppe was thrilled, Knights coach Rob Stock was heartbroken after a technical foul in the final minute may have cost his team a chance to prolong its season.
Trailing 51-46, the Knights' Madi Henderson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points with 34 seconds left.
But following a timeout, a technical foul was called on the Knights when freshman Sarah Paitz entered the game.
The foul was called because Paitz's uniform number was incorrect in the official scorebook.
Stock was devastated by his error.
"I'm very proud of the way my team fought and battled all night and to have it end because the coach didn't do his homework, is just heartbreaking. I feel terrible. It was my mistake. It was my error," Stock said. "We played hard from the outset and this was without question one of the best games we played all year.
"It's just tough to see it end this way."
Cummings made one of two free throws on the technical foul to make it 52-49.
Koester then made a free throw with 32 seconds left to extend the leda to four points. Metro East Lutheran (12-13) would get no close than two from that point on.
Getting nine first-half points from Schmitt, Lebanon built leads of 11-5 after one quarter and 28-25 at halftime.
The Knights, led by senior Jessica Jump's 17 points, tied the game twice in the third quarter. But baskets by Aileigh Wilken and Krumsieg put Lebanon up 39-34 heading into the final quarter.