Miraculous fourth quarter forces extra time
There’s no question that the Lady Titans have got heart, and they proved it on Friday, February 13, pulling off an incredible comeback in the fourth quarter against the Sierra Grande Panthers to force overtime.
Unfortunately, the well ran dry as the Panthers edged out a 76-73 win over the Lady Titans in extra play to hand Crested Butte its first league loss all season.
It was a rough start for the Lady Titans facing a fired-up Sierra Grande squad and a solid fan base. The two teams traded baskets through the opening five minutes of the game, with junior Sydney Loyed leading the Lady Titans scoring eight of the Lady Titans’ first 12 points.
The game was tied up 12-12 until Sierra Grande caught fire from the perimeter, scoring the final five points of the first quarter to take a 17-12 lead. The Panthers remained hot in the second quarter, building a 23-12 lead before Lady Titans coach MaryMike Haley called a time out to rein in her team and hopefully cool off the Sierra Grande shooters.
Haley threw a zone press at the Panthers out of the break and when senior Emma Vosburg hit two three-pointers in a row, the Lady Titans were back to within one point of Sierra Grande, with three minutes left in the half.
But the Panthers came roaring back to score the last eight points of the half and take a 31-22 lead into the break.
Sierra Grande carried their momentum into the start of the third quarter. Despite intense pressure on the ball by the Lady Titans defense, the Panthers managed to find open players for shots and crashed the boards to get second and third chances at the hoop.
The Panthers’ intensity on offense led them to a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter and Haley called another time out to refocus her team.
Freshman Sydney Jernigan battled for a basket inside after the break, sophomore Shannon Holleran fought through the swarming Panthers defense for another bucket and Vosburg picked off a pass and scored to cut the Sierra Grande lead back down to five.
The Panthers responded at the end of the quarter, scoring the last seven points and leaving the Lady Titans down 45-33 with one quarter left to play.
Sierra Grande built a 14-point lead with six and a half minutes left in the game when the Lady Titans erupted for their comeback scoring 29 points in the final six minutes.
Everyone knocked down key baskets. Senior Jessie Frame sank a turn-around eight-foot jumper, Loyed pulled down an offensive rebound and scored and then drained a three-pointer and Vosburg followed with another three-pointer to cut the Panthers’ lead down to four.
Vosburg and Frame traded off baskets to continue to chip away at the Panthers’ lead, but the Panthers answered with a couple of buckets to temporarily hold off the Lady Titans’ comeback.
Crested Butte continued to push and when Vosburg drained a three-pointer from way downtown, the Lady Titans were on top for the first time since the first quarter 55-54.
Loyed added another basket from beyond the arc to put the Lady Titans ahead 58-54 with 1:22 left in regulation.
Vosburg broke the Sierra Grande press and dished the ball to Frame for two and then hit one of two free throws to put the Lady Titans on top 63-58 with 28 seconds left.
The Panthers climbed back to within one, shooting four-for-four from the free-throw line but freshman Karleigh Dean stepped to the line with 18 seconds left to hit one of her two free-throws, giving the Lady Titans a two-point cushion.
Sierra Grande called a timeout to set up for one last shot and found an open player with 10 seconds to tie the game and when Vosburg missed two free-throws down the stretch, the game moved into overtime.
After playing the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, Vosburg picked up her fifth in the opening minute of the overtime, leaving Haley without Vosburg, Jernigan and senior defensive all-star Allie McFarland for the closing minutes of the game.
Despite losing three players to foul trouble, the Lady Titans kept pace with Sierra Grande, with Frame hitting two from the line and Dean dropping a baseline shot, giving the Titans a 70-68 lead.
The Panthers responded with two free-throws and a three-pointer to take the lead back, but Holleran scored and was fouled to put her on the line, with the Lady Titans down by one with 18 seconds left in overtime.
Holleran hit the free-throw to tie it up once again, but the Panthers would not give in and came charging back up-court to score and hit one final free-throw to seal the 76-73 win over Crested Butte.
Vosburg finished the game with 27 points, Loyed had 18 and Frame scored 11 points and pulled in six rebounds.
“I just wish we didn’t have to dig ourselves out of that hole,” says Haley. “But, they never gave up, I was so proud of them. Losing Smalls [Emma Vosburg] in overtime was rough but even without her the team was still rallying.”
Haley looks at the loss as a key growing experience for her team, heading into their final game of the regular season as well as the post-season.
“It’s a growing pain that we needed to get through,” says Haley. “We haven’t really jelled as a team all season and I thought that finally happened when they dug themselves out of that hole to come back. For the underclassmen to see what it’s like to fight back is going to be huge because that is what the post-season is going to look like.”
Despite the draining loss Friday night, the Lady Titans returned to the court Saturday, February 14 to crush Aguilar 68-39.
Vosburg put together a triple-double with 27 points, 12 steals and 13 assists. Jernigan scored 12 points and Frame and Holleran each scored eight.
The Lady Titans head to Holy Trinity on Saturday, February 21 for their final regular season game. A win will give the Lady Titans a share of the league title with Sierra Grande, with the number-one seed in the district tournament to be determined by a coin toss.
If they lose either to Holy Trinity or the coin toss, the Lady Titans will host the first round of the district tournament at Mt. Olympus on Tuesday, February 24 at 5 p.m.