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Lake Havasu beats Cibola on late FTs
L.H. 12-3-5-16 — 36
Cibola 8-7-9-11 — 35
Cibola— Malacah Jackson 14, Lakey 7, Lackey 7, Evans 4, Fiser 2, Sanchez 1, Weekly, Baldenegro
Lake Havasu — Alexis Whittaker 12, Smith 10, Radine 5, Yost 4, Olsen 2, Roach 2, Bezanson 1, R. Jackson
The Cibola girls basketball team was in prime position to pull out a close win Tuesday night.
Then they were doomed by the free-throw line.
The Raiders struggled in the final minute, and Lake Havasu made a pair of free throws with seconds left to beat Cibola 36-35 in a physical game at Raider Gym.
“You just got to make free throws,” Cibola coach Justin Hager said. “You have to make your one-and-ones and I knew they would foul us, so you got to make your free throws.”
Cibola (8-3) went 10 for 20 from the free-throw line — which included missing a pair of front end of one-and-ones in the final minute. Lake Havasu, on the other hand, finished 20 for 24 from the line — 10 of 11 in the fourth — and junior post Alexis Whittaker nailed a pair with three seconds left to secure the win.
The win must have come with a little sense of déjà vu for the Knights, who beat Gila Ridge 36-35 on a free throw with no time remaining on Thursday.
“One of our strengths all season has been free-throw shooting, and it showed in the fourth quarter,” Lake Havasu coach Kevin Eppler said. “We worked on pressure free throws in practice, and we won last week against Gila Ridge with a free throw at the buzzer to pick up a win.”
Whittaker finished with a team-high 12 points and 14 rebounds for Lake Havasu, and Haley Smith added 10. For the Raiders, sophomore guard Malacah Jackson had a game-high 14 points and junior post Baylee Lakey finished with seven points, seven rebounds and eight blocks.
The Raiders led by four after a basket by Hannah Lackey made it 35-31 with 1:12 left in the game. On their next possession, a poor out-of-bounds pass from the sideline led to a pair of free throws by Lake Havasu's Taylor Yost.
Lackey was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Knights got within one by a free throw by Whittaker to make it 35-34. Jackson was fouled but also missed the front end of her one-and-one, which gave Lake Havasu (10-2) one last chance.
Smith drove into the lane and dished it off to Whittaker, who rose for a shot. Lakey thought she had her ninth block of the game but she was called for the foul, and Whittaker made both free throws to secure the win.
“They said that I held her. I don't know, I thought it was all ball,” said Lakey, who has 26 blocks on the season.
It was a noticeably physical game on both sides — which Hager thinks might have been the reason for a low-scoring contest.
“I think it was a good defensive game for both teams. I thought it was physical,” he said. “It was physical both ways and they got us by a point. It is what it is.”
In the previous meeting between the teams, Cibola was able to escape with a 47-41 win at Lake Havasu. In the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Power Points, the two schools are nearly identical. Coming into the game Tuesday, Cibola was No. 16 in the state and No. 6 in Section I, and Lake Havasu was No. 18 in the state and No. 7 in the section.
“Cibola is coached by Hager, he's a great coach and we know we have to come and play our A-game time after time,” Eppler said. “We know they're going to be aggressive. We'll take (the win). Your goal is, no matter you can get them, get wins on the road.”
“You got to move on to the next one. It's a long season still. We got big games coming up,” Hager said.
In one of Cibola's other losses, the Raiders made too many mistakes late and gave up a key 3-pointer in the closing moments for a 45-43 loss to Gila Ridge.
“(Lake Havasu) played a great game, and we didn't execute down the stretch,” Hager said. “You make free throws and the game is over.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.