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Gugliotta hits buzzer-beater in Crater win over Springfield

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Twenty-four hours after making the next step of her soccer career official, Crater senior Kayleigh Gugliotta played the role of hero on the basketball court.

Gugliotta’s 3-pointer from the left corner not just beat the buzzer but gave the seventh-ranked Crater girls basketball team a thrilling 49-46 win over No. 6 Springfield on Friday night at the Comets’ gym to keep ahold of second place in the Midwestern League.

“It felt clean,” Gugliotta said of how she felt about her game-winning shot when it left her hand. “It was just soft and it worked.”

Gugliotta — who signed to play soccer at George Fox University on Thursday — bookended the game-winning sequence, recording the steal to put everything in motion before racing up court, taking her spot in the left corner and then receiving a pass from sophomore Abigail Winslow with no time to spare before hitting her second 3-pointer of the game.

“Some kids have pretty good weeks, but this one is really good,” Crater coach Scott Dippel said. ”She will remember this the rest of her life.”

The fourth-quarter comeback by the Comets (17-4, 10-2 MWL) came after two quarters in which offense was hard to come by for Crater, which won its first meeting with Springfield 41-38 on Jan. 7.

Crater scored a combined 11 points in the second and third quarters, allowing Springfield (14-6, 8-2) to take a 34-30 lead heading into the final period.

Springfield, which entered the night on a seven-game winning streak, led 43-39 with 2:39 to go after sophomore Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam made a pair of shots from the charity stripe — an area of the court in which the Millers frequented Friday night.

Two more free throws from Romero-Ah Sam — who scored all 11 of her points from the line — gave Springfield a 46-43 lead with just over a minute remaining.

Gugliotta’s baseline drive cut it to a one-point game, 46-45, before McKenzie Hirsch — the only other senior on Crater’s roster — tied it at 46-all after splitting a pair of free throws with 27.5 seconds to play.

Springfield got the ball past halfcourt but a wayward pass fell into the hands of Gugliotta. Rather than call timeout, Crater pushed it in transition, setting the stage for Gugliotta’s heroics — and she didn’t miss.

“We do a lot of what we call ‘30-second games’ in practice and that does prepare us for listening in moments of panic,” Dippel said. “I think they just did such a good job. Springfield, on that last play, they went right at McKenzie and we were able to pull (Romero-Ah Sam) out. Abby made that quick reversal and Kayleigh made it.”

“I knew going into this game it was going to be a tough one and we knew we needed to play as a team,” added Gugliotta, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. “When I got that steal (on the winning possession), I knew I needed to be calm and play it like any other. I just passed it and played it like any other game.”

The frantically calm ending was a far cry from how well the Comets played to begin the game.

Crater jumped out to a 13-5 lead after Hirsch’s elbow jumper and pair of free throws within seconds of each other. The Comets held a 19-7 lead after the opening quarter, with Kate Stidham’s 3-pointer from the left corner proving to be Crater’s first buzzer-beater of the night.

At that point, the Comets were feeling pretty good about things.

Then, scoring became a complete struggle.

Crater went over nine minutes without a made field goal. And between those two quarters, the Comets made just three total field goals — which just so happened to be all 3-pointers.

“We played very inspired early on and executed the game plan right off the bat,” Dippel said. “(Springfield) made some really nice adjustments. We just couldn’t get settled and then we were rotating so late defensively, they did such a good job of catching the ball on the move and driving. We put them on the line a lot in that second and third quarter.”

Springfield’s comeback bid that started in earnest in the second quarter was also the beginning of a night where Springfield shot an astonishing 38 free throws (making 26), something that Dippel thinks he’s never seen in his coaching career.

Crater, by contrast, was 15-of-30 from the line.

By the time halftime arrived, Crater’s 13-point second-quarter lead had been cut to two points at 26-24. The late surge to close the first half turned out to be the early portions of a 17-0 run by the Millers to get themselves right back in the game.

Between the second and third quarters, Springfield outscored Crater 27-11.

“There were a lot of defensive adjustments made on their side and we just couldn’t get shots to fall,” Dippel said. “We couldn’t generate anything, but the girls kept fighting.”

That they did.

Hirsch finished with a game-high 18 points and dished out four assists, while Stidham had six points, five rebounds and two assists. Alexa Gugliotta pulled down six rebounds.

Juju Henderson led the Millers with 15 points, including 10 of Springfield’s first 15 on the night. Kylie Rankins added 10 points.

“To win against such a good team as Springfield, no matter how you get it, it’s fantastic,” Dippel said.

SPRINGFIELD (46): Morgan 4, Wilson 0, Phillips 0, Bartlow 2, Henderson 15, Rawson 4, Romero-Ah Sam 11, Rankins 10. Totals: 9 26-38 46.

CRATER (49): K. Gugliotta 11, Dippel 3, Weaver 5, Hirsch 18, Stidham 6, S. Winslow 0, McCauley 1, A. Winslow 3, Vranes 0, A. Gugliotta 2, Traore 0. Totals: 14 15-30 49.

Springfield 7 17 10 12— 46

Crater 19 7 4 19— 49

3-point goals — Springfield 2 (Henderson 2), Crater 6 (K. Gugliotta 2, Dippel 1, Hirsch 2, Stidham 1). Fouled out — Morgan, Weaver. Technical foul — Springfield coach Williamson.

JV result — Crater won.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneCrater's Lydia Traore fights for a rebound with Springfield's Kylie Rankins, left, and Juju Henderson at Crater High School on Friday.
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneCrater's McKenzie Hirsch makes a pass around Springfield’s Natalie Rawson at Crater High School on Friday.
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneCrater's Alexa Gugliotta goes up for shot over Springfield's Natalie Rawson at Crater High School on Friday.