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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Free throws in final minute save Highland girls vs. D. VistaNov 29, 2012
Highland girls basketball coach Miner Webster is pleased with his team's 7-1 start, which isn't out of the ordinary for Webster's squads over the years. He's ecstatic over the two that count the most.
Aliyah Bryant made one free throw and Olivia Lucero sank two more in the final minute Thursday to help Highland hang on for a 56-53 victory over Desert Vista in a Division I game at Highland.
"We've played a lot of games, but this one and last week with Dobson (49-47 win) are big," Webster said, referring to them being power-point games. "It wasn't pretty at times. Their pressure bothered us in the second half. Fortunately we made some free throws at the end."
Lucero, a senior guard,finished with a game-high 21 points. Lucero did most of her damage from the free-throw line. She connected on 14-of-15 free throws to offset a tough night shooting from the floor (3-of-11). Her last two free throws came with 11 seconds left to extend Highland's lead to 56-53. Bryant made one of two free throws with one minute remaining to keep the lead at 54-51. A basket by Desert Vista's Kylie Butler with 43 seconds left pulled Desert Vista to within one.
After Lucero's final two free throws, Desert Vista (0-2) called time with 7.8 seconds. Sophomore guard Emily Wolph, who was one of the Thunder players that caused problems for Highalnd with pressure, missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer.Wolph led Desert Vista with 16 points and Butler, who played off the bench, added 13. All 13 came in the second half.
Highland had the game going its way after struggling in the first few minutes. That was thanks to a 9-0 run late in the first quarter and early in the second that saw it erase a 13-9 defict and lead 18-13. That margin reached 30-20 late in the second and was 30-23 at intermission.
But holding the lead wasn't easy. Desert Vista turned up the heat with full-court pressure and forced seven turnovers in the third quarter. Highland committed only five in the first half. Webster had to use a couple timeouts late in the first half and early in the third to settle his team down.
"We wouldn't run our press break, at least not the right way," Webster said. "We were free-lancing. Not doing it the way we practice. They played hard and have a good team. That's why this was a big game to win."
Webster liked the play he received in the interior from senior Megan Brown and junior Melinda Myers. Brown did a nice job containing the Thunder's 6-foot-4 sophomore post Kristine Anigwe. Desert Vista tried going to Anigwe often in the early going. Anigwe scored six points -- four in the first quarter. She was 2-of-11 from the field. Brown had eight points and 10 rebounds and Myers scored 9 points and had seven rebounds in a reserve role.
"Megan Brown has been our MVP so far," Webster said. "She got her nose busted against Dobson, but made two free throws to help us win. Defense is her forte."
First-year Desert Vista coach Jaysie Sheppard-Chambers said at the moment, trying to get her team "game ready" is paramount. It hasn't helped playing teams the caliber of Pinnacle (two nights ago) and Highland out of the gate. Both are perennial playoff teams that often play deep in to postseason.
"This is our second game and some teams have already played five or six games," Sheppard-Chambers said. "I'm new and the girls are testing me. They have to understand they have to go 100 percent in practice, and know they have to go harder in games. If they don't, they won't start."
Sheppard-Chambers liked the energy the pressure defense brought.
"That helped us come back," she said. "We also were more aggressive offensively after that in the second half. That's the way we want to play."