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Buckeye wins OT thriller against Peoria

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Casey Pritchard's picture
BUCKEYE’S BAILEY WIRTZBERGER defends against Peoria Friday. Wirtzberger hit a couple of clutch free throws in overtime to secure a 64-62 win for the Lady Hawks.
BUCKEYE’S BAILEY WIRTZBERGER defends against Peoria Friday. Wirtzberger hit a couple of clutch free throws in overtime to secure a 64-62 win for the Lady Hawks.

Lady Hawks blow 10-point lead but hang on

In what has been a thrilling season for Buckeye’s girls basketball team, the high-water mark came Friday night against Peoria.

Despite blowing a pair of double-digit leads in the second half — and failing to attempt a field goal in overtime — the Lady Hawks gutted out a 64-62 victory in front of a raucous home crowd.

Peoria is a good team, I expected them to come back,” Buckeye coach Regina Early said. “The difference in this team is I like the way they stay composed. In past years we probably would have lost that game because we would have panicked, but they didn’t panic. They stayed together, and that was fun to watch.”

Buckeye had only four possessions in the four-minute overtime, and turned the ball over on each of its first three. However, Dallas Jones came up with a steal in the waning moments and led a fastbreak, dishing off to Bailey Wirtzberger, who was fouled with 4.8 seconds remaining. Wirtzberger made both of her free throws, giving the Lady Hawks the only points of overtime and a key victory.

I just told everybody to believe, stay together, there was no time to panic,” Early said. “I just wanted them to believe and stay together.”

It was fitting that Wirtzberger made the winning free throws, as she had missed one in the bonus with 28 seconds remaining in regulation and the Lady Hawks clinging to a two-point lead. That allowed Peoria’s Alexis Camacho to tie the game with a floater in the lane and send it to overtime.

We wouldn’t have gone into overtime if I would have made my first free throw, and that’s all I was thinking when I was shooting the last two, was it was my fault we were in overtime, so I had to make them,” Wirtzberger said.

Buckeye (21-2) looked to have the game in control with a 62-52 lead and less than two minutes to play, but Peoria (20-5) put together a furious rally that tied the score. After a Chayrel Yazzie 3-pointer, Peoria got a steal and Olivia Davis was fouled. She made the front end of a one-and-one, but after missing the second free throw Taylor Blue got the rebound and stuck it back in, cutting the Lady Hawks’ advantage to 62-58.

Following another Buckeye turnover, Camacho made a pair of free throws with 44 seconds remaining, and then tied the game with 17 ticks left on the clock following Wirtzberger’s free-throw miss.

We stopped doing what was working,” Early said of the fourth-quarter meltdown. “When you are being pressed, the way you break a press is by passing. We did that at the beginning and they had to come out of it. Give kudos to them, they put it back on and came back in the game because Buckeye didn’t take care of the ball.”

Buckeye had one last chance to win it in regulation, but Alliesandra Fuller was called for traveling on her way to the bucket with 2.5 seconds remaining. The Lady Hawks then stole the inbounds pass at half court, but Dallas Jones’ long 3-point attempt came up short, sending the game to the extra session.

Both teams were patient on offense in the overtime period, which led to not many shots being taken. The Lady Panthers ran out the clock in attempting to get the final shot, but Camacho had her pocket picked by Jones, which led to the fastbreak and foul that gave Buckeye the winning charity tosses.

I told them in that last timeout, we’re switching everything, and it worked in our favor,” Early said. “[Camacho] drove, Dallas got a hand on it, Dallas got the ball, we were going wide, Dallas dished and we got the foul.”

Jones said she contemplated going up for the shot herself on the 2-on-1 breakaway, but thought better of it.

I thought I was going to go up but I knew the girl had four fouls and I knew she was a big part of their team and of course I knew that [Wirtzberger] was going to make the free throws,” Jones said.

Tight first half

The game was back and forth through the opening 16 minutes, which featured four ties and seven lead changes. Buckeye gained a 31-29 advantage 35 seconds before intermission when Fuller scored and was fouled, converting the three-point play. Another Fuller basket with 5 seconds left gave the Lady Hawks a four-point lead at the half.

Buckeye started the second half on a 7-0 run, getting buckets by Fuller and Nicole Mitchell sandwiched around a Wirtzberger 3-pointer, giving it an 11-point lead, which was its biggest of the game. Peoria chipped away though, getting within two points, 45-43, in the final minute of the third quarter. Jones then hit a 3, and Wirtzberger connected in the lane, making it 50-43 heading into the final stanza.

Peoria closed the gap to 52-50 early in the fourth before a 10-2 run by the Lady Hawks all but seemed to wrap up the victory. Early knew better, though.

I didn’t think that 10 points was going to last anyway because No. 10 [Blue] was shooting the lights out,” Early said.

Blue led all scorers with 25 points, while Camacho added 14 for the Lady Panthers.

Buckeye was led by Fuller, who scored 23 points despite being double-teamed for most of the night.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a double team,” Fuller said. “When I’m playing I don’t really notice the double team, I’m focused on the basket. If it’s a really bad double team, that’s why we’ve got them [Jones and Wirtzberger] out there for the 3s, and they were on tonight.”

Wirtzberger finished with 19, while Jones had 14. Senior Nicole Mitchell contributed eight points to the cause, cutting backdoor for a few easy baskets.

She played her butt off, really stepped up,” Fuller said.

The win helped jump Buckeye to sixth in the Division II power rankings, while Peoria, which was fifth earlier last week, dropped all the way to 16th following back-to-back losses (Phoenix Thunderbird on Thursday).

Buckeye played Phoenix Trevor Browne on Monday, the result was unavailable at press time. The Lady Hawks close the season with consecutive road games Feb. 6 and 7 at Surprise Shadow Ridge and Chandler Valley Christian, respectively.

Beating Peoria was a big win for Buckeye as it marches toward the playoffs.

Peoria is a good opponent, and it also says how good our section is,” Early said. “You’ve got three good teams in the top 15 with Sierra Linda [No. 8] in there.

This is playoff basketball. It’s getting into crunch time.”

Casey Pritchard can be reached by email at cpritchard@westvalleyview.com.

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