2/23/2014 6:00:00 AM Gonzalez's 29 leads Kingman past Chiefs in OT Lady Bulldogs advance to face Buckeye in Elite Eight of D-II state tournament
The Kingman High girls basketball team huddles up with coach Danny Gonzalez prior to the start of their round of 16 state tournament game Friday at Thunderbird High School in Phoenix. The Lady Bulldogs prevailed in overtime, 51-44.
PHOENIX - It may only be a little past the halfway point of the school year, but Desirae Gonzalez - the leading scorer for Kingman High's girls basketball team - isn't a sophomore anymore. She grew up Friday at Thunderbird High School.
Gonzalez put the offensive load on her shoulders and led the Lady Bulldogs past the Chiefs in overtime and into a berth into the Elite Eight of the AIA Division II State Tournament, 51-44. Gonzalez finished with a game-high 29 points, including Kingman's last seven in regulation and nine of the Lady Bulldogs' 11 points in the overtime period.
"Dez has earned the right to be confident, and the team is confident in her," KHS coach Danny Gonzalez said. "Good players want the ball, and she wanted the ball tonight."
A large reason for Gonzalez needing to be responsible for scoring was the energy spent by senior guard Taylor Reed on the defensive end of the floor. Reed checked Thunderbird (16-5) guard Ozahria Fisher, who has gained the reputation as one of the best point guards in the state. Fisher finished with only eight points, and Reed forced her into five turnovers. Reed ended the night with 14 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
"Defense is what gets Taylor going," Gonzalez said. "She wants to guard the best players and that's because she can. She makes things rough on the other people."
Kingman (18-3) got off to a great start and led at the end of the first quarter, 14-6. Thunderbird fought back in the second to knot it up, 19-19, but the Lady Bulldogs ended the half on a 6-0 run to lead at intermission, 25-19. Reed scored four of her points in that span and Gonzalez added a 15-foot jumper.
The wheels almost fell off of the Lady Bulldogs' train in the third quarter. After 2-1/2 minutes in with Kingman leading 27-23, the Chiefs went on an 11-0 run. The Lady Bulldogs went scoreless for 4-1/2 minutes before scoring the quarter's last four points, all by Reed. She hit two free throws and scored on a layup, but Kingman trailed to start the fourth quarter, 34-31.
It was a low-scoring fourth quarter and the Lady Bulldogs got to within one twice at 36-35 and then 38-37 with 1:59 left in the game. After Gonzalez scored a layup at 1:59, neither team scored until 14 seconds remained, when Thunderbird's Madison Wichmann hit a pair of free throws to extend the Chiefs' lead to 40-37. The Lady Bulldogs got the ball up the court to their bench where they called a timeout with 12 seconds left.
Kingman's out of bounds play was beautifully executed and Reed got a wide-open 3-pointer to tie. But her shot bounced off the front of the rim, and it was Gonzalez who grabbed the rebound. She powered her way to the rim for a put back, and Thunderbird's Brianna Lehew gave the Lady Bulldogs a gift.
Lehew fouled Gonzalez on the way up as Gonzalez sank the put back. With three seconds left, Kingman trailed 40-39 and Gonzalez headed to the foul line.
The no-longer-a-sophomore calmly swished the charity shot, and the game went into overtime.
"In practice we try to simulate situations like that," she said. "We make them in practice so we don't have to run. In my head it was just a free throw and that I could make it."
After Thunderbird scored the first basket in OT, Kingman went on a 7-0 run and cruised to the buzzer and the Elite Eight.
Senior Rachel Arave's defense proved pivotal in OT as she forced many loose balls that her team gathered up.
Gonzalez finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds. She was perfect at the foul line, making eight of eight.
"In this situation, any game could be our last game," Desirae said. "I didn't want to lose or give up on this one. I was going to push so that a team who beats us is a team that is better than us."
No. 13 Kingman plays No. 12 Buckeye (19-4) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Jobing.com Arena at Glendale.