STANFIELD — A contest full of poor-shooting streaks and turnovers saved all of its excitement for the final minute of play as the Pilot Rock girls’ basketball team pulled out a Blue Mountain Conference victory at Stanfield 33-32 on Tuesday.
The difference in the game came from Jessie Doherty, who went to the free throw line for Pilot Rock (13-6, 9-1 BMC) with the score knotted at 32 and 2.5 seconds left on the clock. She was shooting one-and-one free throws.
Her first shot hit the rim and bounced into the air, landing on iron again and rolling the curvature of the basket for a brief second. That moment felt longer than the game up to that point, said Doherty, who admitted to being a less than average free throw shooter. She makes as little as a third of her shots from the line, but against those odds the basket dropped.
“Tonight I had to step it up,” said Doherty, who had a game-high 14 points . “I was thinking about the score and not letting my team down. I had to make that.”
That gave the Rockets a three-point lead. Stanfield’s Emma Gabriel took a pass on the next possession and sent up a shot from beyond the arc, where she was 1-11 shooting up to that point But the one her team needed the most hit home, tying the score before Doherty’s pivotal point made the basket moot.
“They wouldn’t fall in the first half but I just kept shooting,” Gabriel said. “Like my coach said, I was all over the rim so finally I got one in the clutch.”
Free throws hurt the Tigers again, who have lost half their games by one possession. They shot in the 40 percent range on Tuesday.
“Our confidence on the free throw line is not there,” Gabriel said.
The first-place Rockets played well below their comfortable clip in the first half when Doherty was really the only offensive cog. She shot 3-4 from the field while all others were 1-10. The team trailed 9-16 at half and was a little out of sync without starting guard Cailtin Zyph, who sat while the OSAA clears up her transfer from Pendleton.
Coach Butch Wilson said he expects Zyph’s eligibility to be confirmed but didn’t want to risk a forfeit on Tuesday. The team didn’t find out about his decision until right before tipoff, he said, and that may have effected their play.
“It was a punch in the stomach,” Wilson said. “They panicked a little and it took time to settle down.”