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Emily Powers hits the winning layup for Damascus Christian with three ticks on the clock

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Country Christians Lizzy Grandle pulls down a pass ahead of Damascus Christians Sierra Hale during the Cougars 44-43 buzzer-beating loss Monday, Feb. 3.

Valley 10

Team Score
#5 Damascus Christian Eagles
#6 Country Christian Cougars

DAMASCUS — The Country Christian girls basketball team dropped a 44-43 heartbreaker at Damascus Christian in a battle atop the Valley 10 standings Monday, Feb. 3.

The Cougars had been chasing Damascus the entire night before overtaking their opponent with less than a minute to play when Annie Bafford swiped a steal, and teammate Lizzy Grandle sank a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

Damascus knotted the score on a Sierra Hale free throw, but Country wasted little time in regaining the upper hand. Grandle attracted a crowd on the perimeter and sent a pass inside to Lilly Begley, who was fouled on the block. She converted the second of her two free throws to put the Cougars on top 43-42 with 13.5 seconds left.

Damascus 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."

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Country Christian coach Russell Halverson takes in the action from the sideline.

"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. "I'm bummed for our girls, but you know there has to be a winner and a loser."

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 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.

"We are usually an 80 to 85 percent team from the free-throw line," Halverson said. "In the second half, we got the pick-and-roll working and kicked the ball out to open shooters and those shots started to fall."

The Cougars had the lead down to six points late in the third quarter when Grandle rebounded a Damascus miss and took it coast-to-coast for a layup.

Around the same time, 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.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Country Christians Annie Bafford comes around a screen by teammate Lilly Begley during the first half.

Damascus maintained its margin when Katie 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 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."

View photos at ...

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.

This story is scheduled for our Feb. 12, print edition.

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