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SUNSET GIRLS BASKETBALL: Palo Verde fights out of hole, tops Aggies in overtime

Two key players in foul trouble. A nine-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, and a four-point hole early in overtime.

All that would have been too much to overcome for previous Palo Verde girls basketball teams.

Not this year.

“We’ve had some groups in the past, getting down like that, especially in the playoffs, would kind of lose it there,” eighth-year Panthers coach Phil Clarke said. “This group just kept fighting and kept scrapping.”

Paulina Silcox’s free throw with 13.8 seconds remaining in overtime Tuesday gave the Panthers the lead, and Palo Verde came up with a crucial defensive stop on the final possession to hang on for a 71-70 victory over Arbor View in the Division I Sunset Region quarterfinals.

Brooklyn Cruz had 20 points, and Kaylee Puckett added 19 points — each played the entire fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls — for the Panthers (19-10), who have won 10 of their last 11 games and avenged a 65-60 loss to Arbor View on Dec. 14.

Palo Verde, the No. 2 seed from the Southwest League, faces top-ranked Centennial (27-1) in the semifinals at 6:20 p.m. Thursday at Arbor View.

“It was an ugly game, but they made some big plays when they needed to and made just enough plays to pull it out,” Clarke said. “It was a tough game on both sides. I’m just happy for our girls to be able to make one more play and get that one.”

The Panthers trailed 52-43 entering the fourth, but opened the quarter on a 15-2 run that featured two momentum-turning 3-pointers from Marcie Goldberg (12 points). Palo Verde went ahead 62-60 on a putback by Cruz with 1:53 remaining before Kalli Hosier’s step-back 17-foot jumper tied the score at 62 with 17 seconds to go.

The Aggies forced a turnover with six seconds left and quickly got the ball across midcourt but waited until 0.8 seconds were left to call a timeout and were unable to get off a shot before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

Autumn Westmoreland scored all eight of Arbor View’s points in the overtime, and her driving basket with 59 seconds left put the Aggies on top, 70-68. But Cruz quickly scored on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 70 and set up a chaotic finish.

Arbor View committed a turnover with 40 seconds, giving the Panthers a chance for the final shot. Instead, Silcox, who finished with 16 points, was fouled 45 feet from the basket and headed to the free-throw line with 13.8 seconds.

Silcox made the first foul shot to give Palo Verde a 71-70 advantage, and after she missed the second, the Panthers retained possession after a tie-up in the key. On the inbounds pass, Arbor View’s Alaysia Reed came up with a steal on the baseline, and following another tie-up with 7.1 seconds, the Aggies had a chance for the final shot.

But Palo Verde’s trapping defense forced the Aggies’ Caroline Rivera-Cervantes toward the sideline, and she was forced to give up the ball to Katie Wolfram, whose desperation 3-pointer then banked off the rim at the buzzer.

“They did exactly what we asked them to do on that last possession, and they got that one stop,” Clarke said. “We did a good job of keeping them out of the middle, and we did a good job helping at the end to force a contested shot, because they’ve got shooters.”

Westmoreland led Arbor View with 19 points, and Reed finished with 17. Hosier and Wolfram scored 11 apiece for the Aggies, who opened the game on an 11-0 run and led 35-33 at halftime.

“We wanted to speed them up. They were kind of beating us at our own game at first,” Clarke said. “We couldn’t keep anyone in front, they were hitting shots, and they finally started to miss some at the end.

“All the people that were kind of frustrated with themselves stepped up and made big plays when we needed them. I don’t know how many good ones we made, but we made them at the right time.”

Centennial 63, Shadow Ridge 16 — At Centennial, Samantha Thomas had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulldogs routed the Mustangs (9-12).

Jayden Eggleston had 11 points, and Justice Ethridge scored 10 for Centennial, which led 47-12 at halftime.

Megan Jefferson added seven points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Desert Oasis 42, Legacy 30 — At Desert Oasis, Ashlynn Sharp scored nine points, and Taryn Lampkin and Mikala Kirby each had eight points as the Diamondbacks beat the Longhorns.

Ahmaya Smith pulled down 14 rebounds for Desert Oasis (16-8), which outrebounded Legacy 53-28.

C’Aree Stevenson paced Legacy (14-16) with 12 points.

The Diamondbacks play Bishop Gorman (28-1) in a semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday at Arbor View.

Bishop Gorman 58, Cimarron-Memorial 18 — At Gorman, Madison Washington scored 14 points to lead the Gaels to an easy win over the Spartans.

Aja Phoumiphat added 10 points for Gorman, which led 27-2 after one quarter.

Tasia Moore and Elise Young each had four points to pace Cimarron (7-12).

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