The best moments in sports are created when players and coaches are vulnerable, whether it comes at a buzzer-beater, a touchdown as time expires or during a walk-off hit.

Those moments are emotional, and shortly after, someone shoves a microphone in the hero’s face or asks the coach for their thoughts and analysis.

A last-second shot Tuesday by senior Christina Britter led Dunlap to a 51-50 win over Canton at Alice Ingersoll Gymnasium. Quite a remarkable moment for a player who tore her ACL two minutes into her junior season.

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The Eagles trailed by 13 at halftime, and coach Heather Cassady gave the same message at halftime as she did Monday, prior to a 58-51 win over Galesburg.

“She just said it’s about heart,” Dunlap senior Kai Koehler said. “We’re a family and a sisterhood, so we just have to work harder because we’re down.”

A player who had to sit and watch her teammates, including her older sister, play for more than a season finally got to play the hero. For the first time in Cassady’s five seasons coaching Dunlap, her team left Canton winners.

“This game was the fight of our lives, because since we were freshmen we were trying to beat them,” said Britter. “As a senior being able to beat them, it was a wonderful thing to accomplish, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Next coach up at Limestone

Limestone has a new coach pacing the bench for the foreseeable future.

Leah Zeitler is in her first year as head coach, but now is a new mother and has been away on maternity leave since Dec. 22.

Leslie Howard has stepped up to coach the Rockets, who are 3-3 under her guard. But she’s only building off of what Zeitler began.

“Leah kind of set a good foundation that we’ve started with,” Howard said. “We both know a lot, so I’m just kind of build on what she started.”

The Rockets are lucky to have a pair of former Division I women’s basketball players as coaches, especially considering the shrinking number of female coaches. Zeitler was a forward at Bradley and Howard was a guard at Colorado and Arkansas.

“I think that’s kind of what a huge asset for us ... we have guard and post knowledge,” Howard said. “When we do post-guard breakdowns, we don’t work together a ton. I think we trust each other.”

Howard is Salem (Mo.) High School’s all-time leading scorer with 2,152 points. At Arkansas, she scored a game-high 24 points as a junior to upset No. 24 Florida 69-63.

Kindergarten coaches

Eureka’s girls basketball program has been hosting kindergarteners as assistant coaches this season. It’s been a key part of the program's reach into the community.

Ellie Payne helped guide the team to a 68-46 win over El Paso-Gridley, which traded leads with Eureka in the first half. Her message was “play ‘til the buzzer.”

Madi Meyer’s quote was “go team go” when the Hornets beat Fieldcrest 57-28 on Monday.

“(They) got to see what it was all about,” Eureka coach Jerry Prina said. “It was a great example by our players keeping their poise, not getting too upset or frustrated with the officials when something didn’t go our way.”

Sophomore in

Richwoods sophomore Jaida McCloud was “unavailable” for the first two games in 2018, following a third-place finish at the State Farm Holiday Classic.

McCloud’s status for Thursday’s game against Manual was “available” according to coach Todd Hursey, who said he couldn’t elaborate on why she wasn’t available.

She scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had three assists and two steals in the Knights 61-33 win over Manual.

Steady improvement

After dropping the opening game of the Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic, Illini Bluffs was sitting at 6-6. Since then, the Tigers have strung together five straight wins. That included a consolation championship win over Havana, 43-20.

Jim Robertson has been impressed with how his young team — IB starts a junior, three sophomores and a freshman — is improving.

“We are young but getting better every game,” Robertson said.

Aaron Ferguson is a reporter at the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3207 or aferguson@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.