As New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
In basketball, the game doesn’t officially end until the officials leave the court and head to their locker room. A Cedar Valley girls basketball assistant coach learned that lesson the hard way Tuesday night at Tooele High School, confronting one of the officials after the final buzzer of what appeared to be a 35-34 Cedar Valley victory over the host Buffaloes.
Consequently, the assistant was whistled for a technical foul, sending Tooele senior Aysha Lewis to the free-throw line. She calmly knocked down both foul shots, giving the Buffaloes an improbable 36-35 victory.
“I haven’t seen something like that in, I don’t know how many years — or if I ever have,” Tooele coach Randy Goss said. “I don’t think you’re supposed to charge after the officials, especially after you already had it won. It made no sense. That was a take-charge ref. Good times — at least we got the win.”
Tooele (10-10, 7-4 Region 10) looked to have missed its final chance in the waning seconds. Senior Emma Higley was fouled with 1.4 seconds left in the game and the Buffs trailing by two points. Higley made her first free throw, but missed the second. However, Tooele got another opportunity when the Aviators (11-9, 8-3) were whistled for traveling on the rebound, giving the Buffs the ball back with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.
Tooele’s buzzer-beating attempt hit the rim and bounced off, apparently completing Cedar Valley’s rally from a six-point deficit. The Aviators trailed 30-24 with 4:18 left in the game, but tied the game with back-to-back 3-pointers by Naomi Nicholson and Taylor Miyasaki. Then, with 2:07 left, Megan Jensen converted a traditional three-point play to give Cedar Valley a 33-30 lead.
Tooele tied the game again from the foul line, as Madi Baker hit 1-of-2 and Breanna Beer hit 2-of-2 with 1:04 left. But the Aviators responded with a basket by Lexi Herzog with 6.2 seconds remaining, forcing Goss to call timeout.
Despite the long odds, Goss said his team remained confident.
“They played with a lot of heart and they battled to the end,” he said. “The girls were a little shocked they got there, but that’s one thing about them — they’re pretty even-keeled. ‘We can tie them, we’re good.’ They’re confident in the timeouts, and that’s always good to hear.”
The Buffs tried a long pass to Higley under the basket, but she was tripped by the Aviators’ Madi Leathem to set up the chaotic final sequence of events.
Tooele struggled early in the game, allowing the Aviators to build a 14-6 lead after one quarter. However, the Buffs’ traditionally stingy defense was at its best after that, as Tooele outscored Cedar Valley 13-1 in the second quarter to take a 19-15 halftime lead. The Buffs led by just one point after a 3-pointer by Nicholson with 2:30 left in the third quarter, but put together a 7-2 run over the next 6:12.
Lewis led all scorers with 14 points in the final regular-season home game of her garner. Fellow seniors Higley and Baker had eight and six points, respectively. Rylie Hogan had four points, and Beer and Aiden Finch each scored two.
Goss credited assistant coach Chris Baker for his work in helping form the team’s toughness.
“Chris and I have talked about it — these girls will make adjustments mid-game and stick to it,” Goss said. “They have a lot of heart and they play really hard. Baker does a lot with them and he’s a big help with us. It’s a team effort.”
Leathem had 10 points for Cedar Valley, all of which came in the first quarter. Nicholson had seven points and Jensen and Miyasaki each had six. Herzog had four points and Anna Taumoepeau added two.
The Buffaloes wrapped up the regular season Thursday after press time in Vernal against Uintah. The team will learn its postseason fate when the Class 4A state tournament brackets are revealed Saturday morning. A top-11 seed would give Tooele a first-round bye, while the Buffs would host a first-round game Wednesday if they are ranked between No. 12 and No. 16.