The Park City Miners (2-3) had 19 seconds to bring the ball down and score with the Tooele Buffaloes (2-7) leading by one point, and it was just too much time for the Tooele defense to hang in there as Park City scored with 2.9 seconds remaining to get the 42-41 win on Tuesday.
Park City had two missed shots on its final possession, but after two offensive rebounds it was the third shot from inside the paint that went up and in for the lead. Tooele coach Kris Ashby called a timeout. Tooele had just under 3 seconds remaining to score, but on the long inbound pass the ball was intercepted by Park City to end the game.
“The first thing I think back to was not so much what [Park City] did but what we didn’t do, and that’s make free throws at the end,” Tooele coach Kris Ashby said. “We missed … two or three front ends of one-and-one, and that was kind of our biggest thing right there.”
The missed free throws started having a negative effect on the Buffaloes in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Senior guard McKenzie Alvarez knocked down two free throws with 1:10 left in the game to put Tooele up 40-36, and then sophomore forward Baylee Hansen stole the ball on Park City’s ensuing possession. Park City immediately fouled her, but the Buffaloes were still in the single bonus, putting Hansen at the line for 1-and-1. She missed the first free throw, not granting her a second free throw. Park City rebounded and made two free throws of its own with 46.5 seconds remaining.
Coming down the floor, Park City fouled Hansen again, and she once again missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Park City came down a nailed a jump shot to tie the game at 40 with 24 seconds remaining.
In a fury, sophomore guard Taylor Thomas rushed down the floor with the ball and was fouled on the shot, but she too missed the first free throw. Finally, her second free throw went through to give Tooele the one-point lead before Park City’s dramatic win at the end.
“They made a great play,” Ashby said. “They had good senior leadership.”
Tooele senior guard McKae Searle did not play on Tuesday due to illness. She is expected to be back in the lineup for the team’s game against Stansbury on Tuesday. With Searle out of the lineup, Ashby got a chance to see his younger girls lead the team. Despite the loss at the end, the sophomores took over in the fourth quarter to give Tooele a chance to win.
Thomas poured in a double-double, leading the Buffaloes in scoring and rebounding. She scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. She also dished out three assists.
Forward Courtney Schiwal shined during a stretch in the fourth quarter where she scored six straight points. Hansen passed off to Schiwal with 3:51 on the clock, and Schiwal scored the tying basket at 34-34. On the next possession, Hansen again found an open Schiwal. She was fouled on an attempt and hit both free throws to give Tooele a 36-34 lead. Again on the next possession, Thomas passed off to Schiwal, and she knocked down a jumper to give Tooele a four-point lead.
Hansen followed Thomas in scoring with 12 points and snagged four rebounds.
“They just want to get up and go,” Ashby said about the sophomores. “Sometimes trying to rein them back a bit is difficult. I like the talent we have, and I think we’re doing good things in that group.”
Several players who haven’t gotten a ton of playing time yet got their fair share of minutes against Park City. Guard Amber Haskell and guard Rylee Whitehouse started the game, and sophomore Whitney Leakehe and junior Hannah Webber contributed minutes off the bench.
“I liked the hustle tonight,” he said. “They’ve been getting better. That core group has been getting better through JV games and things like that. It’s getting to the point where we can trust them a little bit more doing things on the varsity level.”
Alvarez made contributions on defense and distributing as the team’s lone senior on the court. She scored seven points with four assists, and she swiped four steals.
“We have a good senior out there that hit a couple of shots in the fourth quarter,” Ashby said. “She did a good job leading us tonight.”
Ashby said he’s just hoping the girls can get healthy, especially Searle. He said with no game to play until Tuesday, it should buy the team some time to build up their health for the start of region play.
Tooele visits Stansbury on Tuesday at 7 p.m. for its first Region 11 game of the season, followed by its second region game at home against Grantsville on Dec. 20.