CHEYENNE – Calysta Martinez drained a pair of free throws to hand Cheyenne South a two-point lead with more than 6 minutes remaining in Friday night’s game with Alliance, Nebraska.
In a back-and-forth, adrenaline-filled game, South appeared to grab the momentum for good.
The visitors had other ideas.
A pair of late 3-pointers and a bunch of free throws sprung the Lady Bulldogs to a 50-44 win at Bison Gym.
“We had some kids on the bench with fouls,” South coach Chad DeBruyn said. “Again, we just didn’t make the plays when we needed to make the plays.”
South (4-5) entered Friday night’s contest heavily outsized. Alliance boasted five players 5-foot-10 or taller, while two of its top contributors were over 6 feet. Six-1 senior Emersen Cyza and 6-3 junior post Jordan Hopp controlled the defensive glass for much of the first half. South, meanwhile, had trouble penetrating the key and getting to the rim.
So, DeBruyn’s club leaned on its perimeter game to help create chances inside. The plan paid dividends.
Martinez sank a deep 3, followed with a 15-foot jumper and then added a putback basket to push her team ahead 12-8 at the end of the first quarter. The South junior posted a game-high 19 points.
Alliance pulled within a point when Cyza snagged a rebound and got the putback to fall to cut South’s lead to 14-13 with 3 minutes, 40 seconds to play before halftime.
South continued to find success from beyond the arc when senior Felizia Sena swished a 3-pointer to hand her squad a 16-14 edge.
South carried an 18-14 advantage into the locker room.
It didn’t last long.
A low-scoring game quickly became a high-scoring affair in the second half.
Cyza drove the lane and found the rim to cap a 6-2 run and give her team a 20-18 lead. The Bison responded with a 4-0 run of their own to regain the lead.
One point separated both teams after three quarters, but the final 8 minutes of action proved fatal for South.
“We stressed don’t turn the ball over and make free throws,” DeBruyn added.
South didn’t have much success in either category.
The Bison were just 2 of 9 from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter. Martinez made both of them to give her team a 31-29 lead with more than 6 minutes left in regulation.
But just as South was trying to establish some rhythm and momentum, Alliance stole it away.
A Jenaye Shoemaker 3 put the Bulldogs ahead 32-31 with 5:54 remaining. Another 3 by Megan Oligmueller made it a two-possession game.
Martinez scored eight points in the first quarter, but was held without a bucket until the 6:59 mark of the fourth quarter. Riley Van Tassell ignited a rally for the home squad. Martinez split a pair of Alliance defenders on her way to the basket to trim the margin to 38-33 with just over 2 minutes left.
“I wanted to win,” Martinez said. “I didn’t want to lose any more. I’m kind of tired of losing. It’s getting old.”
A pair of late baskets by Van Tassell kept the Bison within reach, but the Bulldogs did just enough to squeak out the win.
“Free throws (are) still a big problem. Shooting percentages were pretty low. I think if we had a higher shooting percentages both nights, we would’ve (beaten those) teams,” said Van Tassell, referring to Thursday night’s overtime loss to Rock Springs.
“It’s the game of basketball. Things happen. You just have to get your head back in it, and we didn’t get our heads back in it quick enough.”
ALLIANCE 50, SOUTH 44
Alliance…..................................... 8 6 14 22 – 50
Cheyenne South…..................… 12 6 8 17 – 44
Alliance: Shoemaker 10, Campbell 1, Oligmueller 13, Alvarado 0, Hopp 4, Rolls 10, Boness 2, Cyza 6, Knapp 2.
Cheyenne South: Martinez 19, M. Mirich 0, Liggett 0, Pena 0, Shrove 1, Brown 7, Sena 8, Van Tassell 8, Stensaas 0, Harlan 0, Dimas 0.
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.