McLellan’s clutch free throws lifts Kennett to D-II crown

By: KJ Cardinal

DURHAM – Trailing by one with no time on the clock, Kennett’s Kaylee McLellan went to the line and buried two clutch free throws to give the second-seeded Eagles a 38-37 victory over top-seeded and unbeaten Bow, capturing the 2023 NHIAA Division II Girls Basketball State Championship on Sunday at the University of New Hampshire.

As the final seconds ticked away, McLellan received the ball at the top of key from Sydnie Chin and drove to the right to throw up a desperation runner. The final buzzer sounded and the Falcons bench flooded the court to celebrate an apparent championship, but there was a whistle and a foul called.

The court was cleared and McLellan went to the line with no time on the clock and no rebounders in the lane to give head coach Larry Meaders’ Eagles a dramatic one-point win and their third-ever Division II title and their first since 2010.

The Eagles (21-1) came ready to play as they jumped out to an 11-7 lead after one quarter, led 25-15 at half and held a 12-point lead with 6:49 left in the third quarter. The Falcons (20-1) weren’t ready to give up though as their vaunted defense held Kennett scoreless for the next five minutes as they went on a 14-0 run to take a 29-27 lead with 1:52 on the clock.

The game was tied at 31-31 entering the fourth quarter, which would be a grind between the two best defensive teams in the division. The two teams combined combined to shoot just 4-16 from the field in the final stanza before setting up McLellan’s game-winning heroics.

While the game ended with two of the most clutch free throw in tournament history by McLellan, the game could be seen as being ultimately decided at the charity stripe. The Eagles were an impressive 11-13 from the line as a team (84.6%) and the Falcons were just 7-13 (53.8%). McLellan alone was a perfect 8-8.

Bow’s Bella LaPerle led all scorers with a game-high 15 points and teammate Alex Larabee added 13. McLellan (14) and Chin (10) both netted double figures to lead Kennett.

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