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Raiders seal win over Kofa with late free throws
KHS 6-8-8-16 — 38
CHS 11-10-13-11 — 45
Kofa — Kayla Cruz 11, Fuentes 8, Ortiz 6, Wiley 5, Castaneda 5, Gastelo 3, Orman
Cibola — Baylee Lakey 17, Jackson 16, Evans 5, Baldenegro 5, Lackey 2, Fiser, Weekly, Villa
More than week ago, the Cibola girls basketball team let a critical section game get away because the Raiders missed several late free throws.
But senior Alexis Evans and sophomore Malacah Jackson were clutch down the stretch on Thursday, and Cibola survived Kofa with a 45-38 win at home.
Evans and Jackson combined to go 7 for 8 from the free-throw line in the final 3:18 of the game to seal the win.
“I was just thinking this is my Senior Night, I am not losing,” said Evans, who made five of those final seven free throws.
“It all comes down to focus. You have to make them,” Cibola coach Justin Hager said. “You have to step up.”
Cibola (11-3) lost 36-35 in the final seconds to Lake Havasu at home on Jan. 15 after leading by four with just more than a minute left.
The Raiders got a big night on offense by junior post Baylee Lakey, who finished with 17 points – 13 in the first half – and 12 rebounds, while Jackson scored 16, including a pair of key 3-pointers in a crucial 11-0 run in the third quarter.
“We couldn't stop (Lakey), basically,” Kofa coach Mary Kaye Garcia said. “She was sealing us off completely. She owned the paint, and we couldn't stop her.”
“I wasn't fading on my shot. We were working on that in practice,” Lakey said. “We were working on post moves a lot, and I think that helped with scoring more.”
Junior guard Kayla Cruz scored all of her team-high 11 points in the second half for Kofa, which cut a 15-point Cibola lead late in the third quarter to three with 2:04 left in the game. Senior post Jacky Fuentes had eight points and five rebounds for the Kings but was on the bench because of foul trouble when Cibola made its run in the third quarter.
The win is crucial for Cibola, who along with the Kings (9-4) and Lake Havasu, is fighting for a playoff spot this season. Entering the night, Lake Havasu is No. 7 in Section I, with Cibola (No. 8) and Kofa (No. 9) right behind. The top eight teams advance to the section tournament.
“You should have heard us in the locker room before the game, we were going crazy,” Lakey said. “We were all pretty pumped for this game. It's a big game. It's Kofa.”
“Our last few games have been playoff games because of our situation,” Jackson said. “We just have to play our game.”
Leading 23-19 early in the third quarter, the Raiders distanced themselves from the Kings with an 11-0 run that featured nine points by Jackson and a basket by Lakey. Jackson hit a 3-pointer to make it 34-19 with 52 seconds left in the quarter.
Kofa managed to work its way back and a 3-pointer by Cruz and a putback by Adly Wiley made it 41-38 with 2:04 left.
However, the Kings couldn't come up with a basket and the Raiders sealed it with a pair of free throws by Evans and Jackson.
“I think we waited to long to start making it happen,” Garcia said. “You can't wait until the end of the game.”
Cibola has three games left, all on the road – at San Luis, at Gila Ridge, before ending the season at Kofa.
“Good teams win at home, great teams win on the road,” Hager said. “We have to win the games on the road. Every game is a playoff game from now on.”
Kofa finishes the year traveling to Gila Ridge and San Luis before ending with huge section games at home against Lake Havasu and Cibola.
“This isn’t the end of the world,” Garcia said. “We still have (today) and next week.”