This season, the Paradise Lady Panthers haven’t always made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win big games.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday.
After Alvord rallied with a 10-0 run to tie the game 40-40, Paradise ended the game on a 13-1 run to grab a crucial league win.
Makala Neighbors’ field goal with 1:23 left sealed the deal on a 54-41 Lady Panther victory.
“That 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter was huge on their part,” Paradise coach Kevin Pope said. “I attribute that to Rob’s [Schmucker] coaching. He’s one of the best coaches around – there’s no doubt about it.
“There were times in the past when we haven’t recovered from things like that, and we did a good job of recovering tonight.”
Alvord trailed most of the night, including 27-20 at the half. Paradise’s lead extended to 40-30 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Lady Bulldogs came out on fire to start the final frame. An early 3-pointer and four straight free throws from Katie Claborn and Marissa Schedcik cut it to 40-37.
Claborn then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game for the first time since early in the first quarter.
“If our shots fall, we knew we could get back in it,” Schmucker said. “It’s just a matter of getting the shot selections we want, and we got some second and third opportunities to get back in it.”
With the game knotted up with 5:32 left, Pope called a timeout. The strategy out of the break worked as Paradise responded, not allowing another Alvord field goal the rest of the way.
“There are no secrets,” Pope said about adjustments during the timeout. “Teams in our district are well-coached. We just had to readjust on their players and where their hot spots were.”
The Lady Panthers turned up the defense and started feeding the ball back inside to Makenna Burt, who scored five points in the final five minutes.
“They started throwing the ball inside, and we couldn’t stop [Burt],” Schmucker said. “They did a nice job of going back to what they did in the first half.
“We went cold during that stretch, which is part of the game.”
Alvord’s only point in the final five minutes came on a Brianna Ponder free throw.
Afterwards, Pope was excited about defending the home court and getting a quality win against a good team.
“Anytime you beat a program like Alvord that has been successful as they have the last few years, it’s a big win,” Pope said. “They’ve been successful ever since Rob Schmucker walked into the place.
“We want to be a perennial playoff team like those teams [Alvord]. You can’t take a night off in this district.”
Burt led Paradise with 22. Neighbors and Kaylee McConnell each finished with nine. Jett Preather tossed in eight, and Courtney Kerr had seven.
Alvord was led by Claborn with 14 and Lauren Hart with nine.
Schedcik added five.
Paradise continues district play Tuesday at Boyd, while Alvord enjoys a bye.