Van Horn girls basketball coach A.B. Lennox said he was confident in any of his players taking two free throws with the game on the line.
But if he had to choose one player to do so, it would be his most experienced player – junior guard Daisy Washington.
She was at the foul line with 5.6 seconds left as her Falcons were up 34-32 in a non-conference game against Oak Grove. She calmly swished two free throws for the last of her team-high 15 points to make it 36-32. Even with Jenna Engelhard’s 3-pointer going in at the buzzer, the Falcons still hung on for a 36-35 victory Monday at home.
“When Daisy puts her mind to it, she can do what she wants on the floor,” Lennox said. “When she wants to get to the cup, she can get to the cup. Daisy has a lot of experience and she really stepped up for us tonight.”
Washington didn’t shy away from the moment.
“I just was like, ‘I got to make them,’” Washington said of her mindset when she was at the foul line. “If I didn’t, that 3-pointer would have won it for them.”
Her free throws were pivotal as the Panthers (5-7) made a second-half push in which they scored Van Horn 20-14. Oak Grove did a better job of getting past Van Horn’s zone press and getting senior forward Lilli Weir, who had a game-high 16 points, open looks in the paint.
However, the Panthers struggled to make shots in the first half. Oak Grove didn’t make a field goal until midway through the second quarter when Weir made a putback layup. The Panthers shot just 4 of 25 (16 percent) from the floor, including 0 of 12 in the first period. Their cold shooting dug too deep of a hole for them to overcome, head coach Jared Broughton said.
“It just felt like one of those games where you keep going, you keep going, but you can’t get over the hump,” he said. “We were a little to quick offensively. We would just have one pass or two passes then shoot it. We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively. Van Horn did a good job rotating and taking away Lilli in the first half.”
Washington scored eight points in the first period, including a 3-pointer and a coast-to-coast layup that helped her team take a 9-4 edge going into the second. Three-pointers on back-to-back possessions from Washington and Adison Smith gave the Falcons a 19-8 advantage. But the Panthers came back with a 7-3 spurt capped by a Mya Blansit 3-pointer to make it 22-15 going into halftime.
A 3-pointer from Lexi Robinson and a baseline floater from Breannah Pace sandwiched around an Oak Grove free throw pushed the lead back up to 11 early in the third. The Panthers began to find a way to break Van Horn’s press as they went on a 10-0 run. Weir sparked it with three layups and Destiny Valentine capped it with an open layup on the press break, cutting the advantage to 27-26.
Weir’s third foul forced Broughton to sit her late in the third. The Falcons took advantage as freshman forward Erica Parrish scored inside twice, one coming at the buzzer to make it 32-26 going into the fourth.
“It just happened, but it was great,” Parrish said of her buzzer beater.
The Panthers began the fourth with a pair of steals from Weir and Engelhard, which turned into fastbreak layups on the other end to cut the Falcons’ lead to 32-30. After Van Horn (6-6) made 2 of 4 throws to extend the lead to four, Weir made a 7-foot jumper with 11.8 seconds left to make it 34-32. Van Horn threw the ball out of bounds on the ensuing inbounds play that gave Oak Grove a shot to tie it late. But Weir couldn’t get a potential game-tying layup to fall as Washington grabbed the rebound and was fouled to set up her game-sealing free throws.
“We kept pursuing and then we got tired because we only play five to six players the whole time,” Lennox said. “Once our girls got tired, they found a way not to just give it up, but they continued to fight.”