Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford senior Analysa Montez knifes between a pair of Eagles en route to the basket. Montez tallied a game-high 20 points against Thatcher as the Bulldogs prevailed 65-57 in overtime in Norma Bellamy Gymnasium on Jan. 4.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
SAFFORD – The top-ranked 3A Safford Bulldogs left Norma Bellamy Gymnasium with an unblemished seeding record, topping the visiting 2A No. 7 Thatcher Eagles 65-57 in overtime Friday night.
“No, I didn’t expect the game to go into overtime,” Safford head coach Robert Abalos said. “We did what we have been shown how to do and we made our free throws. They threw some different defenses on us, but we had prepared for them.”
That was the difference in the extra period. The Bulldogs not only handled the different defenses but maintained their floor spacing offensively, looked for the open teammate and made the extra pass for a better shot.
Safford outscored Thatcher 15-7 in overtime. Four different players each connected from the floor, senior Analysa Montez drilled a 3-pointer (53-52) that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, and senior Deion Abalos (55-52), junior Jessica Bright-Shade (57-54), and junior Cambry Cluff (59-54) each scored from inside the arc. Additionally, 6-6 free throws were made in the final 44 seconds, two each by Montez (61-54), Abalos (63-54), and sophomore Mia Carter (65-57).
Thatcher got field goals from senior Lacie Whitmer (50-52) during the first three seconds of the extra four minutes for the Eagles’ final lead of the game, senior Brooklyn Angle (55-54) midway through the period, and a 3-pointer from Angle (63-57) in the closing 16 seconds.
The Eagles came from behind to tie eight different times in regulation, the last on senior Kaitlyn Rasmussen’s field goal with nine seconds left.
Safford trailed by two points through the opening 2:01 before knotting it up on a Bright-Shade basket. A foul on the play resulted in a free throw awarded and made. The Bulldogs went on to lead 12-11 heading into the second period and trailed by one at halftime, 22-23, before Carter’s 3-pointer 1:50 into the second half tied the score at 25-25. Safford led 39-36 heading into the fourth period.
Neither team led by more than five points in regulation, Thatcher 14-19 with 4:01 and 16-21 with 2:24 left in the second period, and Safford 30-25 with 4:43 left in the third period. Safford led by nine, 63-54 with 27 seconds left in overtime.
The Bulldogs totaled 21 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 15-23 free throws compared to 22 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 8-11 free throws by the Eagles.
Montez finished with a game-high 20 points on six 3-pointers plus 2-2 free throws, Bright-Schade 17 on six field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 4-6 free throws, and Carter 10 on two field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 5-6 free throws. Abalos added eight points, Cluff six, and junior Rachel Fox four.
For the Eagles, Angle posted a team-high 15 points on five field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-2 free throws, junior Taya Baldwin 10 on four field goals plus 2-2 free throws, and Rasmussen 10 on three field goals plus 4-4 free throws. Whitmer added seven points, sophomore Karlee Lords five, freshman Mikaela Jorgensen and sophomore Cassidy Wakefield four apiece, and junior Briley Miner two.
Safford (10-2 overall, 5-0 seeding, 11.6582 rating, 0-0 3A South Region) hosts a pair of Tucson schools for region contests this week, the No. 2 Tanque Verde Hawks (14-4, 7-1, 11.0354, 0-0) on Tuesday, Jan. 8 and the No. 39 Catalina Trojans (1-11, 0-8, minus 15.8709, 0-0) on Friday, Jan. 11.
Thatcher (10-6, 7-2, 8.3238, 5-0 2A East Region) begins a string of seven consecutive region games, hosting the No. 23 Pima Roughriders (7-8, 3-5, minus 1.9720, 3-2) on Tuesday and the No. 17 Bisbee Pumas (14-4, 6-3, 2.1177, 4-2) on Friday.