KINGMAN - It was only two weeks ago that the Kingman girls basketball team was fighting for its life just to stay on the bubble for a ticket into the 5A-II state tournament.
But following Wednesday night's 51-47 upset win over No. 7-ranked Deer Valley in the Northwest Region Tournament, the Bulldogs are one win away from receiving an automatic invite as region champs.
"This was a moment we've been waiting for as a team," KHS Danny Gonzalez said of the upset. "I'm real proud of them and I want them to soak it up. It's a big step for our young girls to be in a championship game."
Kingman (11-16) will either play No. 3 Mountain Ridge or North Canyon at 7 p.m. on Friday in the title game. But win or lose Friday, Wednesday's win in all likelihood will lift the Bulldogs high enough in the power rankings to reach state.
KHS freshman Lindsey Reed carried her team with a season-high 27 points before fouling out late in the game, and Kamber Butler returned from a one-game suspension to hit two free throws in the closing seconds.
"Kamber was on the bench in the fourth quarter with about four minutes left, and I asked her to step it up and be a senior leader," Gonzalez said. "Her presence picked up our spirits, and she only made two of four free throws, but it was two very big free throws because we needed those baskets to solidify the win."
In a topsy-turvy final period that saw key players foul out (including Reed and Deer Valley's Candice Brown) and the Skyhawks (18-9) blow an eight-point lead Brown left them with after a 14-point third quarter, Kingman outscored its opponent 19-12 to beat Deer Valley for the first time in at least two years.
"We could have gone either way late in the game, but we've been playing well lately and we were in their (Deer Valley's) face until the end," Gonzalez said. "It was a valiant effort by everyone on this team."
Jatoya Askew had 12 points for her fourth consecutive double-digit scoring night, complementing Reed's big night of one driving layup after another.