When Tiana Gipson hit one of two free throws, with just 33 seconds left in overtime of a Class 5 sectional contest, the Lee’s Summit North senior guard had no idea she would provide her Broncos with the winning margin.
The Broncos then held on for a heart-stopping 47-46 victory over North Kansas City, the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 5 team, Wednesday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
The two teams went into the four-minute overtime period tied 44-all, then Micaela Dickerson hit the Broncos’ first basket at 1:15 to make it 46-44.
She was fouled on the basket, but missed her free throw attempt. That’s when Alexis Griffin grabbed the biggest rebound of the season, giving the Broncos new offensive life.
She passed the ball to Gipson, who was fouled.
“When I went to the line, I knew I had to hit the first one,” said Gipson, referring to her one-and-one opportunity. “I felt good when I hit the first one, and thought I’d get the second, too.”
But the shot rimmed in and out of the basket, giving the Hornets the chance to score the game-winner in the closing seconds.
Northtown scored a quick layup to cut the deficit to 47-46.
Mackenzi Calloway then made what could have been a game-changing steal at midcourt, but the Hornets missed a layup and the ball went out of bounds and belonged to the Broncos.
With four seconds left, the ball was inbounded to 6-foot-2 senior forward Aiyana Johnson, who wrestled with a Hornets player and was called for an offensive foul with four seconds remaining.
North Kansas City standout Chandler Prater, who scored 15 of her game-high 26 points in the second half, took a quick shot and was fouled. She stepped to the free throw line with less than a second remaining.
One free throw would tie it, two would end the Broncos’ season in heartbreaking fashion.
With a rapt group of players and fans watching, she missed both free throws – setting off a wild celebration in the crimson-clad Broncos student section and on the North bench.
“An unbelievable finish,” Broncos coach Tricia Lillygren said after her 21-5 team advanced to Saturday’s 1 p.m. state quarterfinal against Liberty. “I thought the best-case scenario was that the game would be tied. The worst case, for us, would obviously be if she hit both.
“She is a tremendous player, and she missed both. As it turns out, we had one more break, one more good thing happened to our team than they had happen to their team.”
When asked about the Johnson foul, the coach cast a quick glance at Johnson. They smiled at the same moment.
“I will never be disappointed when a player plays as hard as Aiyana did tonight,” Lillygren said. “She was working so hard to secure the ball. It could have been a foul, it could have been a no-call. As it turned out, we were able to survive and play another game Saturday.”
Johnson finished with a team-high 14 points.
“Even when the foul was called, I was calm and knew – deep down inside – that we were going to win the game,” Johnson said. “I just thank God that we had the opportunity to play and advance to Saturday’s game.
“I know how Chandler must feel. I can’t imagine feeling like that after a sectional game.”
While everyone was talking about the dramatic ending, Lillygren was quick to point out the game was won in the third quarter, when her team outscored the 25-3 Hornets 13-5 after trailing 22-17 at halftime.
“I was not happy with the first half of the game,” Lillygren said. “The first half looked more like a first half of game early in the season – not the first half of sectional game. We talked about some things and played much better in the third period and the second half.”