The fate of the Marana girls basketball team’s season may have changed on an overzealous defensive play last Tuesday night in Vail.
The 10th-ranked Tigers (17-5), who engaged in a 32-minute battle against 11th-ranked Cienega (11-8), found themselves deadlocked at 44 as the seconds drained off the clock.
The Bobcats, with the ball and the chance at the game’s final possession of regulation, went inside for an interior shot—only to have their attempt bang off the back of the rim.
Salvation came in the form of a whistle, however, as the game’s lead official called a personal foul on Antoinette Audiss—giving the Bobcats two shots to seal the game.
The Bobcats would make one-of-two free throws, with the second attempt hitting back rim and shooting out toward the sideline.
The Tigers pounced on it, heaving a prayer shot some 65-plus feet toward the opposite basket—coming well short in its travels.
The last-second defeat overshadowed what was a remarkable effort by senior guard Alyssa Perez—who scored 27 points on 13-17 shooting for the Tigers—including 19 in the game’s latter half. Perez also tallied her 1,000th career point at Marana.
It was a night of missed opportunities for longtime Tigers Coach Camron Dozier, who compared Tuesday’s clash to a playoff game.
“We knew that it was going to have that feel coming in,” Dozier said. “And you know what? Call, no call, doesn’t matter. We should have taken care of it earlier. You can’t put it in the hands of the refs. We’re not going to do that.”
Dozier found a silver lining, of sorts, in his team’s ability to fight back from multiple deficits, including an 18-15 deficit at the half.
“Just the effort, you know?” Dozier said. “It started to go south in the first half. You know, we put in a lot of effort, came back, I mean, the kids played hard. We just made some mistakes that cost us early, and like I said, you can’t put it in the hands of the refs. That’s the way it goes.”
The Tigers’ two-game road trip concludes at 7 p.m. on Friday, when they face a 7-7 Cholla squad that beat Catalina Magnet 56-18 on Tuesday night.
The Tigers are still in sole possession of first place in the Division 5A Sonoran region, with a 4-0 record against regional foes—a stat that will be tested against the Chargers on Friday.
Dozier is confident his team will rebound against Cholla, before closing out the regular season with home games against Poston Butte and Flowing Wells on Jan. 30 and 31, before concluding the season against Desert View on the road on Feb. 2.
“They’re great kids, man. I love coming to practice every day,” Dozier said. “They love the game. They work hard. So, I mean, [I like] pretty much everything about the whole process.”