THREE OAKS — Despite trailing for most of the way in a Friday, Dec. 28, road game against River Valley, the Bridgman High School girls basketball team never gave up.
A pair of late free throws by senior Kaitlin Essig forced overtime, and the Bees went on to prevail 48-41 on the strength of seven trips to the foul line during the extra session.
“They came back and they played the kind of defense that we asked them to play — they boxed out ... they played the kind of game they should have from the beginning in that overtime,” said Bridgman coach Kim Lundin.
Other than an early 4-3 advantage made possible by a Hannah Lundin offensive rebound and put-back, Bridgman never led in regulation.
The Mustangs built a 12-point margin (25-13) early in the third period as Haizea Ruiz drove to the hoop and scored.
But the Bees had whittled the lead down to seven points (34-27) heading into the fourth quarter, and out-scored their hosts 12-5 over the final 8 minutes to force the extra session of play.
Sydney Payne scored five of those points, with her steal and lay-up at the 2:47 mark following a series of offensive rebounds and missed shots by River Valley cutting the gap to five points (38-33). Over the next minute an outside shot by Savanna Tate and a 2-for-2 trip to the free-throw line by Payne had pulled the Bees within a single point (38-37 — Ruiz would later make one of two foul shots to build a 39-37 lead).
Essig drew a foul after snagging a rebound with 11.4 seconds left in regulation, and sank both opportunities to tie things up at 39-all.
Neither team made a shot from the field in overtime, but the Bees kept earning trips to the stripe — going 9-for-14 from the foul line to account for all of their points. Lily Badger sank four of six chances, Essig went 3-for-4, and Payne was 2-for-4.
River Valley lost three starters to fouls — Ruiz, Tiffany Hyatt and Jessie Rieth – during the final stretch.
“That was pretty intense,” Payne said after the game. “I’m glad we came out with the win.”
Baskets by Emma Springer, Allison Schmidt, Taylor Volstorf and Ruiz helped the Mustangs build a 10-7 lead at the end of one quarter.
River Valley had upped the margin to 10 points (23-13) by half-time as Tiffany Hyatt sank a three-pointer early in the second stanza and Jessie Rieth, Volstorf and Ruiz put up points to keep the momentum rolling.
Bridgman got back in the game in the third stanza, with a three-pointer by Tate and field goals from Essig, Payne and Lundin cutting the lead in half (32-27) late in the third quarter.
River Valley was looking to put the game away midway through the fourth period, with scores by Volstorf and Hyatt opening up a 38-31 advantage, but Payne’s aforementioned steal and score at the 2:47 mark seemed to swing the momentum in Bridgman’s direction.
Payne led all scorers with 19 points. Lundin added 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Ruiz (11 points), Taylor Volstorf (9 points), Hyatt (8) and Rieth (7) paced the Mustangs.
Bridgman won the Dec. 28 junior varsity contest 31-13.
River Valley was down to just three players (Annekah Witter, Koralynn Kennedy and Ariel Kaner) in the fourth quarter die to foul-outs, but fired up the home crowd when Kennedy sank a three-point shot followed by a pair of three-pointers from Witter.
Jalynn Krieger (11 points) and Olivia Tomlin (7 points) paced Bridgman while Witter scored 8 for River Valley.
The Bridgman boys varsity basketball team (55-40 winners at Paw Paw on Dec. 28) are scheduled to visit River Valley on Friday, Jan. 4.