By Dave Hart

MONTAGUE – Determining a new West Michigan Conference girls basketball champion required 32 minutes of regulation and three nerve-wracking overtime periods.

Obviously both Montague and Hart wanted the conference crown badly.

Braquelle Osborne finally settled the issue, hitting a game-winning three-pointer with 31 seconds left in the third overtime to give Montague a thrilling 49-46 victory and the top spot in the league.

Montague’s Andie Zamojacin goes for the basket as Hart’s Jayd Hovey tries to get into position. Photo/Leo Valdez

The Wildcats’ championship ended a long era of conference domination by Oakridge, which had won eight straight titles, and 10 of the previous 11.

“It felt great and we knew that it was going to be a fight,” Osborne said. “We have been playing together since fifth grade, and we always dreamed about playing together on varsity.

“We knew this year was our time to shine. No one believed in us but us, and we worked hard for it.”

Montague improved to 15-4 overall and 12-2 in the conference, and won its first league championship since 1994.

“We battled and I am very proud of these girls,” said Montague coach Cody Kater. “No one really deserved to lose this game. I am just glad we were able to withstand some storms and make shots at important times.”

The Wildcats won with a balanced offensive attack, led by Andie Zamojacin with 14 points, Osborne and Katarina Moreau with nine, and Emma Flynn and Claire Meachum with six apiece.

Montague outrebounded the Pirates by a 45-34 margin, but allowed Hart to stick around by committing 23 turnovers.

The Wildcats led throughout the first half. They had a 13-11 edge after one quarter and clung to a 21-20 lead at halftime.

Montague’s Janae Koetje comes down with the rebound. Photo/Leo Valdez

Beachum scored six points in the first half to lead Montague, while Jayd Hovey scored 15 of the Pirates’ 20 points.

The Pirates took their first lead of the game, 24-21, on a Hovey three-pointer 20 seconds into the third quarter.

Hart scored nine of the last 14 points in the third, and had a slim 30-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats opened the final quarter with an 8-4 run to take a 37-34 lead with two minutes remaining. But Hart responded with a free throw by Hovey with 1:12 left, and two more by Taylor Munoz with 1:01 remaining, to tie the game and send it to OT.

Neither team scored in the first four-minute overtime. The second OT was tied 7-7. Hart had a chance to win it with four seconds left, but a three-point attempt missed the mark.

The Pirates took a 46-44 lead with 3:38 left in the third overtime on a basket by Aspen Boutell, but Montague tied the game one minute later on a bucket from Janae Koetje.

Osborne’s game-winning three-pointer came with 31 seconds left. Hart attempted to tie the game with a half-court shot, but was called for traveling with less than a second remaining.

The Pirates fell to 16-4 overall and 11-3 in the conference. They were paced by Hovey, who scored a game-high 23 points, while Boutell added eight.

“We are a young team that played our butts off,” said Hart coach Travis Rosema. “I can’t think of a better game to determine the conference champion.”