By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — For the third straight night, Traverse City West earned a victory over rival Traverse City Central.
Friday's girls basketball win came right down to the wire, as the host Titans had just enough for a 35-32 Big North Conference victory over the Trojans.
West (4-7, 4-1 BNC) — which won wrestling on Wednesday and boys hoops on Thursday against the Trojans — faced its first deficit of the night midway through the fourth quarter, but came back to take the lead for good with an Emilee Thomas jumper from the right baseline with 1:09 to go for a 33-32 lead.
"We had to keep a positive mindset and keep the flow going," Thomas said. "We kept strong and just wanted to win."
Thomas added two more free throws with 1.8 seconds left for a 35-32 edge. The Trojans (2-7) put up a long shot at the horn to try and tie the game, but it just missed.
"Unfortunately we came up one possession short, but I'm so proud of the effort that the girls put in tonight," Trojans coach Ryan Knudsen said. "That was by far their best game of the year. Even though we didn't come out on the winning side, they had a lot to be proud about, because we're improving with every game. I think we're going to have a great second half of the season."
While Thomas hit a couple of big shots down the stretch, defense was also key for the Titans.
"The best thing we do is play defense," West coach Dave Ginsberg said. "Those last two possessions that they had, we really defended well. So I'm proud of that. That was a hard-fought win."
West got off to a hot start in the first quarter, as Thomas hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points for a 17-8 Titans lead.
"I just got in a rhythm, and I just went with it," Thomas said. "It was good."
"I watched her in the warm-ups and she was really comfortable making shots," Ginsberg said. "She had a great game. When they focused on stopping Katie (Placek), we needed somebody to step up and get some baskets for us. This couldn't have come at a better moment for her."
Central fought back and Madi Bankey's 3-point buzzer-beater at the end of the second quarter cut the lead to 19-17.
It was close and physical the rest of the way. There were more than a dozen jump balls called, including five in the fourth quarter.
"There was an exorbitant amount of jump balls, because everybody was competing for the ball," Ginsberg said. "That's what happens. One possession was huge."
Central's Tyler Rawlings scored 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
"She was really aggressive," Knudsen said. "She's a tremendous outside shooter. People know she's a shooter, but she's able to mix it up by attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line. She hits big shots for us at big times."
Bankey had 11 points for the Trojans while Lauren Lozowski pulled down seven rebounds.
Thomas had 16 points for the Titans while Placek and Paris Wagner each scored six.
TC West is at Midland on Monday while TC Central has a pair of road Big North Conference games next week, beginning with Cadillac on Tuesday.
Central took the JV game 33-18. The Trojans (6-3) had nine points from Ashley Reed while Kelsey Acton and Mikhaila Shepler each had eight. Mikenna Ray and Erica Whiting had five points for the Titans (3-8).
In the freshman game, the Trojans moved to 10-0 with a 35-20 win. Sierra Fraser led the way with 12 points for TC Central. Abby Moyes had seven points for the Titans.