After watching their 14-point first-half lead disappear, the Alvord Lady Bulldogs needed a big play to stem the tide Friday night.
Senior point guard Lauren Hart provided just that, catching the ricochet from a shot blocked by Paradise center Makenna Burt and laying it in to push her team back in front.
The putback accounted for two of her nine fourth-quarter points as she helped the Lady Bulldogs hold off the Paradise Lady Panthers for a 41-37 win at a frenzied Alvord High School gym.
Hart finished with 12 points and three steals, including two in the fourth quarter.
“Lauren played really well defensively and offensively,” said Alvord coach Rob Schmucker. “We’ve got to have that every Tuesday and Friday from her.”
With the victory, Alvord tied Paradise for second place in District 9-2A at 8-3 with one game remaining. Both teams have clinched playoff spots.
“This was a pretty big win. We needed it to keep some momentum going into the playoffs,” Hart said.
Even in the loss, Paradise coach Kevin Pope and Burt said the game before a loud and packed crowd will help them moving forward.
“This was practice for the playoffs,” said Burt, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. “This will help us a lot.”
With a suffocating defense and strong perimeter shooting, Alvord looked to bury Paradise early. Alvord held Paradise without a field goal in the first quarter, and Marissa Schedcik hit a pair of treys to put her team up 9-1.
Schedcik finished with a team-high 15 points to go along with four rebounds and three blocked shots.
Alvord built the lead to 18-4 with 4:14 left in the first half on Katie Claborn’s trey.
The Lady Bulldogs hit five 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes of the game, forcing Paradise out of its zone to a man-to-man defense.
“They caught fire and we had to change things up,” Pope said.
Paradise also changed things on the offensive end, working to get the ball inside to Burt. She scored six in an 11-4 run for Paradise to close the first half and get her team within seven at 22-15.
“Their defense was good,” Burt said. “We just worked and tried to reverse the ball as much as possible.”
Paradise continued its comeback in the third quarter, tying the game at 27 on Kaylee McConnell’s 15-footer.
The Lady Panthers took their first lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws from Taylor Richards.
“We could have packed it up when we were down 18-4, but they fought back and took the lead,” Pope said.
Hart put Alvord back in front with a 3-pointer before a steal and layup by Aliyah Read gave Paradise its final lead, 31-30.
The Lady Bulldogs then turned up the defense over the final six minutes, forcing eight turnovers – including the one that led to Hart’s go-ahead layup off a blocked shot. Paradise committed 10 of its 24 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense stepped up in the fourth quarter,” Schmucker said. “We had a gameplan and they executed to win the game tonight.”
Burt was the lone Lady Panther in double figures with 17. Makala Neighbors finished with five.