Faith Lutheran’s Taylor Hammer was in a shooting funk when she stepped to the free-throw line with 6.6 seconds remaining and a chance to put the game away Friday.
But the senior forward erased all thoughts of her tough outing and nailed both shots to help the Crusaders seal a 47-44 victory over Willits (Calif.) in the consolation bracket semifinals of the Lady Wolves Holiday Basketball Tournament at Basic.
The win lifted Faith Lutheran into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. consolation championship, where they will play either Sunrise Mountain or Moapa Valley.
“Taylor is usually a great shooter,” said Crusaders coach Jennifer Karner, who acknowledged that Hammer had an off night until the final minute. “She knew her team needed her to step up there.”
Hammer’s heroics should not have been necessary, as Faith Lutheran had the ball with a 45-41 lead and 54 seconds remaining.
But a Wolverines rebound set up a 3-point attempt by Mykayla McClellan. The shot failed to fall, but McClellan was fouled on the play. She nailed all three of the resulting free throws to cut Willits’ deficit to 45-44 with 8.2 seconds left to play.
Hammer was fouled on the other end, setting up her critical free throws.
The game’s tense conclusion appeared unlikely early, as Julia Benko’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Crusaders a 14-3 lead.
Though the Wolverines rallied, Faith Lutheran again built an 11-point advantage when Benko hit a layup to make it 34-23 with 3:18 left in the third.
But Willits used a 12-2 run early in the fourth quarter to get back in it.
“Our players were exhausted,” said Karner, whose team made it to the semifinals by defeating Silverado earlier in the day. “But to see them fight was big for us.”
Sam Leonard led the Crusaders with 14 points and nine rebounds. Benko added 13 points, and Hammer finished with seven points.
McClellan nailed five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points to lead the Wolverines.
Lakeside (Calif.) 62, Basic 31 — Victoria Sosa scored 14 points for the Lancers, who took control early to roll past the Wolves.
Dana Deloney scored 13 points to lead Basic.
Monte Vista (Calif.) 62, Chaparral 23 — The Mustangs used relentless defensive pressure to rout the Cowboys.
Rachel Tagle led Monte Vista with 12 points.
Tichina Savoy scored five points to pace Chaparral.
Mojave 44, Tech 36 — Ayanna Robinson scored 17 points to help the Rattlers beat the Roadrunners.
Rayena Rael added 10 points for Mojave, which opened the game with an 8-0 run.
Sabrina Sawyer led Tech with 12 points.
Chaparral 38, Mt. Eden (Calif.) 37 — Alejandra Macias and Savoy each scored 10 points to help the Cowboys edge the Monarchs.
Unique Wilson added nine points for Chaparral, which held Mt. Eden to two points in the first quarter.
Willits (Calif.) 60, Tech 18 — Alicia Mehtlah scored 18 points to help the Wolverines cruise past the Roadrunners.
Clarissa Szluha led Tech with six points.
Sunrise Mountain 51, Mojave 40 — Brittany Veal scored 20 points to help lift the Miners over the Rattlers.
Jenae Carhee-Yurek scored 14 points to help Sunrise Mountain, which led 30-13 at halftime.
Ayanna Robinson led Mojave with 19 points.
Alameda (Calif.) 57, Basic 41 — Marie Bertholdt scored 16 points to help the Hornets get a win over the Wolves.
Jayla Brown scored 12 points to lead Basic, which stayed within striking distance until a two-point third quarter.
Faith Lutheran 60, Silverado 46 — Leonard scored 19 points to help the Crusaders defeat the Skyhawks.
Hammer added 12 points for Faith Lutheran.
Jasmyn Garcia scored 17 points for Silverado, which was unable to bounce back from an early deficit.
Moapa Valley 62, Spring Valley 48 — Kimberly Lewis scored 18 points, and Shelbie Gray had 17 points to lead the Pirates to a win over the Grizzlies.
Jessica Stevens scored 15 points to lead Spring Valley, which kept it close until the fourth quarter.