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8:41 PM Sat, Feb. 23rd

Prep Basketball: No. 8 ranked Lady Bulldogs rally for win over River Valley

Kearra Tauta scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half Tuesday as the Lady Bulldogs knocked off River Valley 48-45 for their 10th straight win. (Photo by Beau Bearden/Daily Miner)

Kearra Tauta scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half Tuesday as the Lady Bulldogs knocked off River Valley 48-45 for their 10th straight win. (Photo by Beau Bearden/Daily Miner)

KINGMAN – When a team is ranked in the top 10, every opponent is looking to tally an upset.

That possibility is even sweeter if the victory comes on the squad’s home floor.

That was almost the case Tuesday, but the eighth-ranked Kingman High School girls basketball team overcame a five-point fourth quarter deficit for a 48-45 win over River Valley.

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Star Talayumpteua tallied nine points Tuesday in a 48-45 victory over River Valley. (Photo by Beau Bearden/Daily Miner)

“I told them in the beginning of the year that they’d have to fight out every game that they play,” said Lady Bulldogs head coach Kevin Hubbard. “And especially now when you’re sitting on top of the region and sitting in a spot where people notice. They’re going to bring their best game every night and we just have to kind of deal with it.”

Kingman experienced all its opponent had to offer and more, especially in the third quarter. The Lady Bulldogs were outscored 19-13 coming out of halftime and it appeared momentum had shifted in favor of the No. 35 ranked Lady Dust Devils (3-8, 1-3 3A West Region).

“The third quarter at home has kind of been a conundrum for us - a piece of the puzzle that we have to figure out,’’ Hubbard said. “It’s been tough. It’s not that we’re down on ourselves mentally – we’re pretty focused in. But it seems like our luck is one girl starts hitting a few shots in a row. And we have to overcome that.”

That one girl was River Valley’s Veronica Gonzales, as the sophomore nailed three 3-pointers in the third quarter after going scoreless in the first half.

Kingman still had a one-point advantage, 34-33, entering the final quarter, but an offensive lull had the Lady Bulldogs trailing 43-38 with 4:59 remaining.

It was do-or-die time and Kingman received a much-needed spark from Emilee Araya.

“Emilee had the and-1 3-pointer that was a big turn,” Hubbard said. “And that’s what this team needed. We just had to – there wasn’t any other option. There wasn’t anything special that can get you a lead after you’re down five with five minutes left. There’s nothing special about it, but the heart that you play with and hitting shots in big moments.”

While Araya didn’t convert the four-point play, she did start a 9-0 run that gave the Lady Bulldogs a 47-43 advantage with 54 seconds to play. Star Talayumpteua and Kearra Tauta accounted for the other points during the scoring streak that clinched Kingman’s 10th straight win.

“It was an adrenaline rush for us to actually have that comeback,” Tauta said. “It was pretty good.”

Tauta finished with a game-high 20 points, while Talayumpteua and Sukwana Quasula each scored nine points. Tauta’s night was even more impressive as she had just five points in the first half.

“As a team captain, it’s something you have to keep doing – you have to keep pushing for the team,” Tauta said. “I didn’t let anything get to my mind. That’s it. I worried about the team first. I played for the person that was next to me.”

One person Tauta didn’t have next to her was fellow senior Payton Chamberlain, who is still out due to an ankle injury she suffered Jan. 8 against Chino Valley.

“Payton is kind of day-to-day at this point,” Hubbard said. “She is definitely willing to get back and she’s ready to get back. If you ask her, she’ll play tomorrow. But she can barely walk on it, as is. I think it’ll be a week or two before she’s back. Before Northwest Christian next Saturday is kind of the timeline for Payton right now.”

That can’t stop the Lady Bulldogs (10-1, 4-0 3A West Region) though, as their next opponent is No. 27th-ranked Kingman Academy (6-3, 2-1). Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at KAHS.