With the Decatur Lady Eagles down two as the final seconds ticked off, Sidney Carter found Makayla Mayfield on the left wing.
Mayfield then delivered the cruelest of heartbreaks to the Princeton Lady Panthers, hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and giving the Lady Eagles a 48-47 victory in the Class 3A Region II area game at Kitty Magee Arena on the campus of Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
“I knew we were down and we had to get to the ball down as fast as we could to get a shot off,” Mayfield said. “I just had to do it. It’s crazy. It doesn’t feel real.”
Mayfield was mobbed by teammates on the floor. Veteran coach Billy Garner was stunned.
“Unbelievable,” Garner said. “Absolutely unbelievable. She’s a good enough athlete when it’s fast and chaotic, she can get it down.”
With the victory, Decatur moved on to face 10-3A champion Argyle in the Class 3A Region II quarterfinal Tuesday.
Down four, 46-42, with 17 seconds remaining, the chances of Decatur moving on looked remote. Haley Dennard then banked in a 3-pointer for her only points of the night to bring the Lady Eagles within one.
Dennard soon fouled out, sending Princeton’s Kaylee Strickland to the line. She hit one of two to put the Lady Panthers in front 47-45.
With his starting point guard out, Garner turned to Carter to bring the ball up the floor against the Princeton pressure that had forced 19 turnovers.
“We were supposed to try to lob it inside to Katie [Isham],” Garner explained. “But their pressure forced [Carter] to change direction.”
Carter forced a pass through the double-team to Mayfield, who said she hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all season before the first half Friday. The Class 3A state volleyball MVP leaned on her experience on a big stage to calmly get the shot off.
“I just had to keep calm and do my best,” said Mayfield, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Isham, who was fighting for position underneath, said she never saw the shot go up.
“I just saw the lights. That was incredible,” Isham said.
The memorable end for Decatur came after a forgettable second quarter. The Lady Eagles turned the ball over nine times and managed just two field goals in the frame, as Princeton outscored them 15-6 to take a 23-19 haltime lead.
“Their pressure hurt us,” Garner said. “Their guards did an excellent job and bothered us the whole game.”
Decatur also lost Murphy Graham with an injured shoulder in the frame. Graham scored eight points before the injury.
Decatur rallied in the third behind five of Shelby Drews’ 10 points, taking a 31-29 lead into the final frame.
The teams traded the lead until Strickland drove through the lane to put Princeton up 43-41 with 31 seconds left. Princeton hit three more free throws to take the four-point lead and set up the dramatic, improbable Decatur comeback.
Decatur hit two 3s in the final 7 seconds to pull off the win.
“They find a way. I don’t know what it is,” Garner said.