Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima players rejoice after Aubrie Sherwood hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to lift Pima over Sedona, 50-48, in the 2A Girls Basketball Championship on Saturday.
Pima defeats Sedona for 2A Girls Basketball Championship
By Jon Johnson
AVONDALE – Every ballplayer has done it; counting down the seconds in a pretend game, hoisting the shot to win it all at the buzzer, and walking off the court a champion. Except for Aubrie Sherwood and the Pima Roughriders, the fantasy is real as Aubrie hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to beat Sedona Red Rock, 50-48, and bring the 2A Girls Championship home to Pima on Saturday.
Pima was down 1 and had 8.1 seconds on the clock to bring the ball down the length of the court and score. Sedona had just taken the lead after sophomore guard Helen Westervelt utilized a pick to get around Ashlie Sherwood and hit a running left-hook to put Sedona up, 48-47.
After a time-out, Saydee Allred took the ball down the right side toward the corner but was picked up closely by Westenvert. Aubrie Sherwood then rounded around a couple of feet behind the 3-point arc at the top of the key and Allred hit her with the pass. Sedona’s Nyah Valdez ran quickly out to defend and got a hand right in Aubrie’s face, but Aubrie let it fly with just .1 of a second left as the ball exited her hand.
The buzzer loudly sounded as the ball arced high into the air with the hopes and dreams of both teams hanging with it. The bank was open late on Saturday, and the ball cleanly hit the backboard and swished through the hoop, causing the Pima girls to jump in elation while the Sedona girls stared in disbelief.
“You dream about us winning on a last-second shot and it happened,” said Pima head coach Roy Corona. “I feel for Aubrie, she had been missing all night and she happens to hit that one.”
After the game, Aubrie expressed her joy with hitting the game-winner.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
While the big 3-pointer is called the game-winning shot and it is, no doubt about that. But to get to that point, the Roughriders had to come back from an 11-point halftime deficit. And they did that with their defense holding a high-scoring Sedona team top just 6 points in the third quarter and only 5 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
The No. 3-seed Sedona Scorpions came into the championship game as the unbeaten champions of the 2A Central Region having gone 9-0 region, and 15-0 until meeting No. 1-seed Pima in the championship game.
Sedona came out in a full-court press and was very intense in the first half. A tight first quarter was evenly matched until Valdez hit a 3-pointer just before the quarter expired to help give Sedona an early lead, 12-8.
Valdez (14 points) then went off in the second quarter, hitting two of her four 3-pointers on the night.
Ashlynn Charlson helped keep Pima close at the beginning of the second quarter and make a 3-point play the old-fashioned way by scoring while being folded and then hitting her foul shot. Allred and Nevaeh Grant also hit from the free-throw line but the only other score in the quarter for Pima was a field goal by Ashlie Sherwood and Sedona went into the locker room with a comfortable 27-18 lead at the break. It was not comfortable enough.
“We got back into the game because of our defense,” Corona said.
Just as they have done all year, Pima came out possessed in the third quarter and dominated early, and cut Sedona’s lead to just 3 points, 26-29, after buckets by Charlson and Ashlie Sherwood. The Roughriders lost one of its top defensive players, however, when Grant went down with an injury after playing tight defense on Sedona’s point guard Annabelle Cook.
Allred went deep twice in the third quarter, but Valdez hit her fourth 3-pointer, and Sedona ended the quarter on top, 35-29.
With shades of Willis Reed Jr. (youngsters Google him), Grant attempted to come back early in the fourth but was clearly in pain. Grant soon took herself out and became one of the bench’s fervent cheerleaders.
The lead stretched back up to 8 points early in the fourth, 27-29, but then Pima went on an 11-0 run to take the lead for the first since they were up 8-7 in the first quarter.
The run began with a bucket by Aubrie Sherwood and a huge 3-pointer by Allred, who finished tied with Charlson with a team-high 13 points. Charlson also added 7 rebounds and an assist to her stat sheet. Aubrie finished with 10 points, followed by her sister, Ashlie, with 8 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists, and Grant with 6 points.
This time it was Sedona’s time to come back, and Westervelt, who scored a game-high 15 points, helped them do just that as the teams headed into overtime tied at 40 apiece.
Allred and Charlson both hit field goals in the overtime period, but the score was tied 44-44 when Aubrie Sherwood finally connected on her first 3-pointer on the night to put Pima up 3, 47-44.
After a quick bucket by Stephanie Medel (12 points), Sedona stopped Pima and took possession down 1 point with about 30 seconds to play.
With the pro-Pima crowd rocking the gym with chants of defense, Westervelt went around a pick set by center Rachel Roderick and hit a running left hook over the outstretched arms of Charlson to put Sedona up 48-47 with just 8.1 seconds left on the clock. Pima would only need the 8.
After Aubrie hit the big shot, pandemonium erupted as several fans stormed the court while the girls jumped for joy and hugged each other. The referee was right on it and quickly made the call the 3-pointer was good to the joy of the crowd and the utter dismay of the Sedona team and its fans.
“They always say the better team wins in overtime,” Corona said. “I think we’re the better team now.”
Safford Athletic Director and AIA Executive Board Director Toni Corona then presented the Pima team with its gold ball trophy for the 2A Girls State Basketball Championship.
“It was a really great game,” Aubrie Sherwood said. “They’re a great team. We played really well, and I’m really happy for us.”
Sedona head coach Dr. Kirk Westervelt congratulated the Roughriders on the hard-fought victory.
“My Lady Scorpions were honored to play in such an exciting championship game,” he told the Gila Herald. “I want to congratulate coach Corona and the entire Pima team for 36 minutes of inspiring basketball. My Lady Scorpions remain humble in defeat and would like to express to you how classy the Pima team and fans were. Hopefully, this fuels our off-season program with (a) hunger to make it back to the finals next year.”