A first-half blowout turned into a back-and-forth nail-bitter between crosstown rivals Henley and Mazama.
Holding a double-digit lead for most of the first half, the Henley girls basketball team survived a second-half surge from Mazama, clinching the game in the final minute, 45-41.
It didn’t take long for the Hornet offense to get going on its home court.
Three minutes into the game, Henley jumped out to a 9-2 lead. The margin would only widen in the first quarter when junior guard Raigan Loney beat the buzzer to give the Hornets an 18-5 lead.
Seniors Braidy Smith and Jessica Northcutt jump started the offense with the pair combining for 12 points in the opening period.
It was more of the same for Hornets (8-8, 2-1 Skyline) in the second quarter.
Mazama (6-9, 1-2) struggled with Henley’s full-court press and found little success in the half-court game against Henley’s 2-3 zone defense. It wasn’t until senior Maddy Lease drained a three in the final minute of the first half for the Vikings to eclipse double digits.
At the break, the Hornets held a 28-12 lead.
“We really showed our full potential in the first half, like how we came out and played together,” said Smith, who finished with 11 points. “Then in the second half, I think we came out a little too cocky.”
As well as the Hornets played on both ends of the court in the first half, it was a different story after halftime.
Mazama would score the first six points of the second half. The once overwhelming Henley defense was on its heels in the third quarter as the Vikings stormed back to outscore Henley, 15-3, in the quarter.
Lease and sophomore Macy Clemens each scored four points in the quarter.
“We try and emphasis the third quarter. We have to come out and have a great third quarter,” Henley head coach Shannon Carlson said. “We let them score the first six points and we were on our heels. It makes it really hard to press when they are scoring.”
“We didn’t come out as aggressive and that hurt us” added Northcutt.
A once double-digit lead for Henley was trimmed to four entering the game’s final quarter. A pair of Lease free throws with 2:28 left in the game gave he Vikings their first lead, 39-38.
The once confident Hornets were all of a sudden a little uneasy, even if it was for a brief moment.
“There is always a little bit of panic that goes on,” Smith said, “but once you get your head screwed on and realize that it’s just like any other basketball game, and we have to play to win.”
On the ensueing possession Northcutt grabbed an offensive board and laid the ball in. Northcutt would again deliver the next time down the court to give the Hornets the lead again The 6-foot post powered her way for another bucket and a foul to give Henley a 42-41 lead — which would prove to be the game winner.
“I have to give them credit because they could’ve folded up their tents and let them beat us,” Carlson said, “but in that last minute we came back out, got settled and got the ball to Jessica, which we needed to do and she was able to convert.”
It was a fastbreak layup by junior Mackenzie Peterson in the final minute that allowed the Hornet players to finally exhale, escaping with a victory.
“It was very important to send a statement,” Northcutt said, “and prepare us to get another win in the second round of league.”
The win kept Henley in hunt in the Skyline Conference with Hidden Valley and North Valley, where the top two teams are given a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
The Hornets will play at North Valley Friday, Feb. 1 then will begin the back half of its conference slate with a state tournament berth in the back of their minds.
“It’s important for us to maintain those spots so that we can avoid the play-in game and then have one game to get to state,” Carlson said, “so that’s our focus every night when we come out.”