1A GIRLS BASKETBALL
|#6 Damascus Christian|
|#5 Country Christian|
The Damascus Christian girls basketball team found itself trailing for the first time all night with 10.3 seconds on the clock. Head coach Dave Wakefield called timeout and had a simple message in the huddle.
"I knew we could hit another shot," he said. "Don't think too much about it and just go play."
The Eagles inbounded the ball to guard Emily Powers in the backcourt. She surveyed the floor and dribbled to her left, taking a wide curve before cutting around a Country Christian double team along the baseline and sending a floater toward the hoop with four ticks on the clock.
All eyes in the gym were on the ball as it grazed the glass and fell through the net to give Damascus the 44-43 win.
"I looked down and saw they had only one person in the paint, so I got around the defense, dipped my shoulder and sent up a prayer right before I released the ball," Powers said. "Coach told me to put my head down and take it to the hoop no matter what."
"We forced her to her off hand, we brought a double team and she had to shoot it through two arms — it was just a great play on her part," Country coach Russell Halverson said.
The visiting Cougars rushed to get the ball back in play, but leading scorer Lizzy Grandle only had time for a couple dribbles before flinging the ball into the air from beyond halfcourt. The desperation shot clipped the rim, but was already being waved off by the officials, as it was released a split-second after the horn.
The win pushes No. 6-ranked Damascus Christian (18-2) to the top of the Valley 10 heap, setting up a showdown at No. 7 SW Christian at 6 p.m. Tuesday with the winner likely to take the No. 1 seed into the league playoffs.
"It gives us an advantage if we can take care of business against Southwest," Wakefield said. "Whoever lands that No. 1 spot will get to wait for the other two teams to play each other."
The Eagles built a 14-point lead midway through the second quarter with Noelle Wakefield hitting a pair of early 3s, and teammate McKenna Patrick driving the baseline and pulling up for a 12-footer that clipped the side of the rim and fell through the net.
Southwest dominated the boards most of the night, getting four or five chances at the hoop on some possessions, but nothing would fall. The Wildcats hit only four baskets through the first 16 minutes and went an uncharacteristic 1-for-8 (12.5%) from the free-throw line.
Damascus maintained the upper hand coming out of the break when Katie Bailey received a pass at the elbow and found Powers cutting down the far side of the lane for a layup and a 28-15 lead.
Not long after that, Damascus saw three players fall into serious foul trouble — one hack away from disqualification. With 10 minutes still to play, Wakefield took them off the floor to save them for the stretch run.
"Our kids off the bench had to step up, and they came through," Wakefield said.
Damascus maintained its margin when Bailey picked off a Country pass into the post. Action flowed the other way with Powers firing up a 3 to beat the third-quarter clock. The shot carried over the rim and landed in the hands of teammate Sierra Hale, who quickly went back up and put the rebound off the glass for two points.
The buzzer-beater sent the Eagles into the fourth quarter up 34-24.
Facing a zone defense, Country got back-to-back 3s from Madison Halverson and Lanie Barden. Moments later, Halverson picked off a pass along the sideline and sent the ball ahead to Lilly Begley, who was fouled on her way to the basket.
She sank both free throws.
The Cougars were within two points with 5:41 to play.
Despite having four fouls apiece, Wakefield sent starters Patrick and Ally Love back onto the floor. Love is the team's lock-down defender.
"It was so frustrating to be sitting out, but I knew when I got back out there defense is what I do best," Love said. "I wanted to match up tough and not allow them to come back."
Damascus carried a slim lead into the final minute before Annie Bafford came up with a steal, and Grandle hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Cougars their first lead of the night 42-41 with 0:30 left.
Hale hit a free throw to tie the score with 19.6 left, only to have Begley get fouled underneath the basket at the other end. She hit the second of two shots to put the Cougars up 43-42 with 10.4 seconds on the clock.
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This story is scheduled for our Friday, Feb. 7, print edition.
COUNTRY 5 5 14 19 — 43
DAMASCUS 9 12 13 10 — 44
Country Christian (43) — Lizzy Grandle 20, Bafford 10, Begley 5, Barden 3, Halverson 3, Syphard 2, Burruel, Shelton.
Damascus Christian (44) — Emily Powers 13, Noelle Wakefield 13, Patrick 8, Love 5, Hale 3, Mitchell 2, Manning, Bailey.
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