KINGMAN – When it comes to setting the tone in a game, there’s no better way to do so than with press defense. That was the case Monday as the Kingman Academy High School girls basketball team continued to pressure Northwest Christian and it paid off in a 47-46 nail-biting victory at Betty Rowe Gymnasium.
“What won it for us was defense,” said Lady Tigers head coach Garth Steed. “Whether it was the press or even when they got down in offense – we had a few breakdowns, but for the most part they played their rears off. I’m just happy as can be for that.”
Academy knew it could have success with the press after using it effectively last month in a 36-29 loss to the Lady Crusaders. While it didn’t lead to a win in the Jan. 14 game, it was the difference-maker this time.
“I told the girls coming out – ‘we just need to press them, but we’ve got to be careful,’” Steed said. “I like the press because it keeps our intensity up. We forced a lot of turnovers and we didn’t give up very many easy baskets. So we stayed with the press.”
But what ultimately won the game for the Lady Tigers was Faith Edwards’ clutch basket with 22 seconds remaining that gave her team the lead for good.
Edwards scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter and was also instrumental on defense, highlighted by a number of big blocks.
“Faith played an excellent game on that tall girl,” Steed said of Northwest Christian’s Anna Hunter. “She played awesome. She really carried us. Really all three of the girls – Emily (McCracken), Faith and Brianna (Oktay), when she came in, did a great job on (Hunter). We knew we had to box her out and they did.”
Academy’s much deeper bench was also key in the victory and Steed used it to perfection.
No. 25 ranked Northwest Christian (9-9, 6-4 3A West Region) didn’t have that luxury with just three bench players who didn’t tally a point.
Meanwhile on the other side of the scorebook seven different Lady Tigers notched at least two points, highlighted by three bench players combining for 13 points.
“We have another game (Tuesday) night so I was trying to sub as much as I could and still not drop off,” Steed said. “That’s why a lot of those girls got more time than normal. And they came in and played great. Cynda (Campbell) and Brianna played awesome. They did a great job off the bench.”
Norasia Fielding also played an important role with seven points, while Campbell scored four and Oktay added two points.
But even with the great contributions, Academy watched a 42-33 advantage with 4:39 remaining in the game turn into a 44-43 deficit with 1:25 on the clock.
“We kept giving them turnovers there at the end,” Steed said. “They put a press on us and we kind of got flustered a little bit. But I told the girls, ‘Calm down. We’re ahead, we don’t need to rush.’ Then we’d turn it over – we had like four turnovers in a row and that’s kind of what let them back in it.”
But the Lady Tigers stepped up in crunch time as Ashlee Steed nailed two free throws for a 45-44 lead and Edwards then sank her game-winning basket for Academy’s fourth straight victory.
“At the end we kept our composure,” coach Steed said. “And we lucked out at the very end because they had four opportunities. But we’ll take it, we had some clutch foul shots down the stretch. And defense was what really did it for us.”
The No. 23 ranked Lady Tigers (10-4, 6-2 3A West Region) welcome 31st-ranked Chino Valley (6-10, 1-7) to town at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“This was huge,” Steed said of the win. “They’re ranked ahead of us so we needed this game. Hopefully we can leapfrog them with it. But this game is over and we have (Tuesday) night now. And that game is just as important.”
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