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Cowgirls survive a second-half comeback from Panthers as they keep their playoff hopes alive with a key league victory

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Dallas Hutchins beats a quartet of Redmond players down the court for an easy fast break layup. Hutchins led the Cowgirls in scoring with 16 as Crook County defeated the Redmond Panthers 54-49 in overtime.The Crook County Cowgirls found a way to win their second consecutive league victory on Friday, edging the Redmond Panthers 54-49 in overtime.

"They came out in overtime and they came out with the attitude that they were not losing that game," Crook County head coach Heidi Lea said of her team. "They just took control and kept that three- to five-point lead the whole overtime."

The two teams traded baskets the opening quarter with Dallas Hutchins doing much of the damage for the Cowboys. Hutchins, who finished the game with a team-high 16 points, scored four points in the opening quarter and added an assist.

Still, the game was tied at 8-8 at the end of the first period.

The Cowgirls got in foul trouble in the second quarter with Liz Barker, Grace Brooks and Josie Kasberger all going to the bench with two fouls.

Kasberger scored four in the period before going to the bench with her second foul, while Hutchins added six more points. McCall Woodward closed out the half with a big three-point shot as the Cowgirls pushed their lead to double digits, outscoring the Panthers 15-4 in the period as Crook County took a commanding 23-12 halftime lead.

Lea cautioned her team at halftime that Redmond could come back. And come back they did.

"We told them in the locker room to come out strong," Lea said following the game. "We let them have six quick points and all of a sudden they have closed it down to a five-point game and it was, guys we have to recover."

With Ellie Corwin doing most of the damage, the Panthers outscored the Cowgirls 15-9 in the period. Crook County clung to a 32-27 lead at the end of the third quarter.

However, Redmond's rally wasn't done. When Corwin hit a three-point bomb with less than a minute and a half remaining in the game, the Panthers trailed just 42-42.

When Crook County missed their next shot, the Panthers grabbed the rebound and Corwin hit a two-point basket, giving Redmond their first lead of the game at 43-42 with under a minute to play in regulation.

With 30 seconds remaining, the Cowgirls' Grace Brooks grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. Brooks hit her first free throw, tying the game at 43. Brooks missed the next free throw, but Barker grabbed the offensive rebound. Brooks scored with just over 10 seconds remaining and it looked like the Cowgirls were going to win in regulation, leading 45-43.

"I know that Grace missed free throws tonight but making that free throw at the end to tie it, that was a huge free throw," Lea said. "So, if she had to make any of them, that was the one to make."

But Redmond wasn't done. Brianna Heikkila hit a basket with just over two seconds remaining to once again tie the contest.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Grace Brooks pulls down one of her 12 rebounds as the Cowgirls held on to defeat the Redmond Panthers in overtime Friday night in Prineville.Hutchins had a chance to win the game in regulation, but her running shot from about six feet out on the right side bounced twice on the rim and then fell off, sending the game into overtime.

Once in overtime, it was all Crook County as the Cowgirls scored nine points in the five-minute period while the Panthers scored just four.

"I'm proud of the girls. I told them in there, they kept their heads," Lea said. "They kept their composure and fought and battled and even when Redmond went up by one, and that was the first time they had the lead all night, and our girls kept their composure."

Barker came up big in overtime, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds and scoring four points in the period. McCall Woodward was also huge in overtime, making four free throws in the final minute of the contest as they Cowgirls held on for the win.

"Free throws are really important," Woodward said. "Close games can come down to free throws, so I wanted to make sure that when I went to the line, I finished the job."

Corwin finished with 25 points for the Panthers to lead all scorers, while Skyla Gonzales also had a solid offensive game with eight points.

In addition to Hutchins' 16 points, Barker was also in double figures with 10 points while Woodward and Teagan Freeman both finished with nine.

In addition, Barker had 16 rebounds, despite sitting for most of the second and third quarters with foul problems. Barker played virtually the entire fourth quarter and all of the overtime with four fouls but managed to keep from getting a fifth.

"I thought Liz stepped up big, especially in that overtime period," Lea said. "She got into foul trouble early, but to battle and play with four fouls for most of the fourth quarter and the whole overtime with four fouls, that was huge. She stayed on the floor and I think that showed a lot of composure and confidence in that overtime because she made a couple of huge baskets for us."

Brooks also had a big night on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds as the Cowgirls outrebounded the Panthers 52-47. Gonzales led the Panthers in rebounding with 12.

"I think it's huge, two league wins in a row," Lea said. "We are on a winning streak. Everyone contributed and even the bench was full of energy tonight and our little spurs section was over there hollering and screaming when Redmond shot free throws, I mean everybody played a huge part in the win.

The win improves the Cowgirls to 4-12 overall and 2-3 in Intermountain Conference play, while the Panthers fell to 2-14 overall and 1-4 in league.

"I was so excited," Woodward said of the victory. "I mean close games like that are the reason why we play and I'm just glad that our team pulled it out. I think we were kind of down after the third quarter, but we were able to pick up our heads and we were able to win."

The win keeps the Cowgirls in playoff contention. With five games left to play and three teams from the IMC reaching the playoffs, Crook County is just one game behind the third-place Pendleton Buckaroos, who have an 11-6 overall record, but are just 3-2 in league.

The two teams meet Tuesday in Prineville in what is a critical game for both teams.

The Cowgirls then go on the road Thursday as they take on The Dalles. Both games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Crook County 54, Redmond 49 At Crook County Redmond 8 4 15 18 4 – 49 Crook County 8 15 9 13 9 – 54 Redmond (49) -- Ellie Corwin 25, Gonzales 8, Dove 4, Heikkila 4, Snyder 3, Ernst 3, Castrow 2, McConnell. Totals: 18 9-22 49. Crook County (54) – Dallas Hutchins 16, Barker 10, Freeman 9, Woodward 9, Brooks 6, Kasberger 4, Joyce, Papke, Jonas, Bales. Totals: 20 11-31 54. Three-point goals – Redmond: Corwin 3, Ernst. Crook County: Freeman 2, Woodward.

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