With under four minutes to play and down by seven points, the Defiance girls basketball team was on the precipice of losing its fourth straight game.
But the Bulldogs scored the last seven points of the fourth quarter to force overtime and outscored Wapakoneta 5-2 in the extra session, to come away with a 40-37 win on Thursday in their league finale.
“When we were down seven, coach (Rafael Manriquez) told us, we’ve been in this spot before and to just calm down and take our time,” said Defiance senior guard Tammy Aguilera. “I think several times before in games, we forced things too much, but tonight at the end, we executed better.”
Defiance, hurt by 11 turnovers in the first half, trailed at halftime, 18-12. But in the second half, the Bulldogs turned up the pressure on Wapak and forced the Redskins into 11 second half turnovers, while cutting down to just five turnovers of their own.
Trailing 35-28 after Makenzie Wilson’s short jumper, Defiance’s Raelle Gonzales rebounded her own miss and laid the ball in to cut Wapak’s lead to 35-30. At the same time, Defiance began double teaming Wilson to deny her the ball and she didn’t score again.
After a Wapak turnover, Tenley Baldwin’s trey brought Defiance to within 35-33.
Wapak had a chance to seal the deal with a one and one free throw situation, but missed the front end, with 55 seconds left and Defiance’s Joanna Schlatter grabbed the rebound.
That set up another inside shot by Gonzales that tied the game at 35-35, with 27 seconds left. Wapak had the ball and called time out, but its shot just before the buzzer was no good, putting the game in overtime.
Wapak’s Kassi Saunders got loose for a layin to put Wapak up in overtime, 37-35. Defiance’s Olivia Moats then hit a trey with 1:55 left, to put Defiance in front for the first time since early in the first quarter at 3-2.
Wapak had two chances to take the lead, but missed two straight one and ones. On the second one, which came with 24 seconds left, Wilson grabbed the rebound for Wapak. But she was double teamed in the corner and was called for traveling.
Defiance worked the clock down, but was forced to call a time out once, when it had trouble getting the ball past half court. Finally, Aguilera was fouled with seven seconds left. She calmly sank both free throws, to put Defiance up, 40-37.
“I was nervous stepping to the line, not because of how close the game was, but because I had missed a couple of free throws earlier,” Aguilera said. “Coach had me practicing free throws a lot this week and I just kept telling myself that these were the free throws that mattered.”
Wapak got the ball across and called a time out with 2.7 seconds left. They were not able to get off a good shot and the desperation trey clanged off the backboard. Defiance’s Schlatter, who finished with a team high rebounds, snared the rebound as time expired.
“This time, we were able to rally and pull off a close win,” Manriquez said. “Tenley came in and hit a big three off an out of bounds play that we set up for her and we were able to just chip away and make some plays. Olivia’s shot in overtime was big. She came off a screen and got a shot in rhythm. Earlier, she had missed a couple of threes and I told her she needed to calm down and step it up and she did. And we won this without playing (leading scorer) Carlee Smiddy much.
“(She played about three minutes in the first half and did not play in the second half.) This was her first day back at school and she was really fatigued. I thought we could use her in an emergency situation if needed, but I looked over at her on the bench and she was shivering.”
Defiance also pulled off the win with balanced scoring. Eight players scored, but none reached double figures. Moats and Aguilera led Defiance with nine points apiece.
Wilson led Wapak (10-12, 4-5 WBL) with 14 points.
Defiance (11-10, 6-3 in the WBL) hosts Anthony Wayne on Saturday, Feb. 14, in the regular season finale.
WAPAKONETA (37) — Metzger 7; Jenkins 3; Saunders 2; Allen 5; Wilson 14, Minnig 6. Totals 17-1-37.
DEFIANCE (40) — Moats 9; Schlatter 4; Garcia 0; Aguilera 9; Black 3; Baldwin 3; McKenzie 4; Gonzales 6; Maynard 2; Smiddy 0. Totals 15-6-40.
Three-point goals: Wapakoneta — Jenkins, Allen. Defiance — Moats 3, Baldwin. Rebounds: Wapakoneta 23 (Wilson 8), Defiance 32 (Schlatter 8). Turnovers: Wapakoneta 15, Defiance 16.
Wapakoneta 13 5 9 8 2 — 37
Defiance 7 5 8 15 5 — 40
Reserves: Wapakoneta, 45-26.