KINGMAN A year ago, the Kingman High girls basketball team started its region season 0-1 in the Desert West with an overtime loss at home to Peoria Sunrise Mountain, letting a win slip through its fingers late in the game.
What a difference a year makes.
On Wednesday night's Northwest Region opener at home against Phoenix North Canyon, the Bulldogs came from behind in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, and Rachael Bracy drained a free-throw length jumper with five seconds to play for a 53-52 win and a 1-0 record in the conference standings.
"That's something I've never done in my three years here," Kingman coach Darrin Peppard said of the 1-0 start. "We didn't recover from it [last year's region opener], Š and now we're going to find out what kind of momentum we can carry from a big win like this."
Despite a 32 percent shooting night from the field as a team, Bracy and Tennil Reed hit the big shots when the Bulldogs needed them most. Reed's fadeaway shot from the right elbow of the key tied the game at 42 with 28 seconds left in the game. And shooting from nearly the same spot on the floor, Bracy caught an inbounds lob pass from under the basket for the game winner.
"The best play we run is that play," Peppard said. "Sometimes we run it for Sam (Jemison), and when I called it Rachel said 'Do you want Sam there?' and I said, 'I want you there. You're the kid I want taking that shot.'"
Unlike at the end of regulation when Peppard called a time out to set up its offense, Kingman elected to stay in the flow of the game and take its chances.
"Even though we were down, I felt real comfortable to just let them go," he said. "It's one of those where you go with your gut instinct and call a play for one of your best players, and she answered."
The game-winning shot book-ended a season-best night for Bracy, who had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bracy scored eight of Kingman's 12 points in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs get off a fast start and a five-point lead.
"I just came out strong and didn't back down," Bracy said. "That's what we've been missing the last few games and needed was to be more intense early."
Kingman extended its lead to as much as seven in the second quarter, but North Canyon pushed its way back into the game and got within two at halftime. The Bulldogs had a number of chances to push the game out of reach early in the third quarter, but couldn't stop the Rattlers' guards from finding open shooters and taking a 34-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
"I never felt at any point in time that we wouldn't win the game, but I kept wondering when we were going to pull away," Peppard said.
"Every time we got what we wanted with the lead, somebody fell asleep on the press or somebody fell asleep in halfcourt on help defense."
Kingman's defense was wide awake though late in the fourth, forcing North Canyon into three 5-second violations trying to inbound the ball, one of which led to Reed's game-tying bucket in the fourth quarter.
The Rattlers' struggled with Kingman's defensive pressure early in the overtime period as well, giving the Bulldogs easy baskets and a five-point lead. But when North Canyon got into its halfcourt set, Abby Blackhut and Brittany Youvella hit a pair of three-pointers and put the Rattlers up 52-51. Youvella's 3 would be her team's last shot attempt of the game though, as both teams traded possessions with three jump balls, the final one setting up Kingman's inbounds play that won the game.
Bracy and Reed both finished with 15 points, while Kamber Butler scored in every period for 12 points. Kristen Gonzalez added nine points and nine rebounds, including five of Kingman's nine points in overtime.
"Tennil and Rachael are our captains, and there's a reason why and they showed it tonight, but I can't say enough about the way Gonzo Sam, and Kamber played," Peppard said. "Kamber had maybe her best game as a varsity player. She busted her tail tonight."