Andrea Taylor led Excel (7-15 overall, 5-6 in Region 6-A) with 26 points, 20 of which came in the second half.
Christian Heritage buried a barrage of treys to seize a 12-0 lead to start the contest and Excel trailed until Miriam Hibbard hit a turnaround jump shot near the free throw line at the 4:19 mark of the fourth quarter to push the Lady Eagles up to a 40-39 lead. The home team held the lead the rest of the way until Christian Heritage buried a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer of the fourth quarter to knot the game at 45-all.
“They came out and hit some shots early and really grabbed us by the throat,” head coach Eric Harris said. “It got our attention and I was proud of the way we responded. We kept playing hard and fighting back and it paid off for us.”
Hibbard scored Excel’s first bucket of the night, making a second-chance bucket after Taylor missed a 2-pointer with 3:02 left in the first frame to close to 12-2.
A 4-1 run by Christian Heritage put the Lady Eagles in a 16-3 hole but Bekah Bell sank a free throw and McKenzie Hobbs added a 3-pointer as Excel began to show some signs life, at 16-7, after a full quarter of play.
Taylor and Bell handled scoring chores for Excel in the second quarter with 6 and 5 points, respectively, for an 11-9 run that sent the Lady Eagles into halftime trailing by 25-18. Taylor hit two treys while Bell added a trey and a bucket.
Excel trimmed another bucket off Christian Heritage’s lead in the third quarter as Hibbard opened with her team’s first two buckets while the visitors moved to 28-22 with just under a minute of the frame gone.
Bell sank two free throws and Taylor chipped in a three-point play the old fashioned way to close to 30-27.
Christian used a 5-3 run to end the quarter up 35-30 after Taylor contributed her second three-point play with a bucket and a free throw.
Bell opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and a free throw to close to 37-34 and Christian Heritage responded with a two-point play and a free throw for a 38-34 lead.
A bucket and two free throws by Taylor answered by a Lady Lion free throw that put the visitors up 39-38 when Hibbard gave Excel its first lead of the night, 40-39.
Taylor added a free throw and a 2-pointer while Bell hit 2-of-4 free throws, but Christian Heritage scored five points during the same span and the two teams were knotted at 45-all after four quarters of play.
In overtime, all of Taylor’s seven points came at the charity stripe as did all three of Bell’s contributions. Taylor found Brighton McCollum alone under the basket for the game’s winning points and McCollum added another free throw to conclude scoring for Excel, which outscored the Lady Lions 13-10 in the extra period.
Other leading scorers for Excel were Bell, 17 points, and Hibbard, eight.
The victory was especially sweet for Excel because it won without Lexi Robinson, its freshman shooting guard, who was injured against Mount Zion.
“I told our girls they had to step up and fill her shoes and they really stepped up,” Harris said.
Harris said the team already has wrapped up its region seed with a game against Trion still to be played today.
“We will play a No. 5 seed in the first game of our region tournament on Monday,” he added.
That game has a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Excel returns to the hardwood today at 6 p.m. when it visits Trion to close out its regular season.
Harris said his girls will be challenged to follow up the Christian Heritage game against another tough opponent today.
“I hope we can play back-to-back games at a high level,” he added.