Fulton Lady Hornets head coach Jenny Preiss has seen the early-season struggle of her junior guard Rachel Washington firsthand.
Preiss - in her second year at the helm - sees Washington letting her head get in the way of just allowing the game come to her.
"I think I just wasn't going with the flow," Washington said. "I was trying to do too much."
But in a strange twist, it might have been Washington's smarts that kept Fulton in Thursday night's North Central Missouri Conference game against Marshall. Washington prolonged two late fourth-quarter possessions for the Lady Hornets, allowing them to tie the Lady Owls at the end of regulation and eventually win 37-32 in overtime.
"She tends to overthink sometimes and watching her late in the game tonight, and seeing her play, using her athleticism and using what we do in practice, was huge," Preiss said. "She was huge and had two huge defensive plays."
Marshall had a 30-22 lead midway through the fourth quarter, a deceptively large deficit in a game where offense was sparse and long scoring droughts could be a team's undoing. Washington took a steal from midcourt and converted a layup to cut the deficit to six points with 3 minutes, 12 seconds left.
Neither team could convert a bucket for the next 2 minutes. At the 90-second mark, Washington's heady play without the ball struck again when she came up with a steal and a took a charge in a 20-second span, leading to a layup by senior forward Meghan Davis to draw Fulton within 30-28.
"You just have to think of other ways, when you're not doing well offensively, you have to think of other ways to help the team," said Washington, who finished with seven points and five steals. "My way was helping through defense and I knew that if I stepped up there on defense, good things would happen."
The next play, a fifth foul against Fulton's leading scorer Corri Hamilton, looked to be the dagger. Hamilton - a junior guard - led all scorers with 13 points and 10 rebounds before leaving the game with :21.9 to play.
"That was huge, but we understand that basketball is not a one-person show," Preiss said. "She might be our leading scorer, leading rebounder and leader on the floor ,but there are four other girls on the floor and girls on the bench who are more than capable of coming in and taking care of business, and that's what we did."
Washington then forced a tie-up, putting the possession arrow back in Fulton's direction. Senior forward Liz Foreman followed by tacking on a layup with :4.2 remaining to cap an 8-0 Fulton run, tying the game 30-30 and forcing overtime.
"It just goes to show you that no lead is too big," Washington said. "Even though it wasn't that big of a lead."
But in Thursday night's game, eight points was huge. The Lady Hornets fought through a stifling Marshall 2-3 zone defense to get back in it and then scored 15 of the game's final 17 points - including the extra period - to pull away.
Marshall junior guard Jasmine Jackson led the Owls with 11 points, including a 3-pointer.
The win puts Fulton (3-2, 2-0 NCMC) above .500 for the first time in Preiss' two-year tenure and leaves the Lady Hornets two games shy of their overall win total of five from last season.
"It's different from last season because we're more experienced," Preiss said. "The kids work hard every day at practice and it's starting to show."
Fulton lost the junior varsity game 55-8.
The Lady Hornets travel to Montgomery County at 6 p.m. Monday.