PRESCOTT VALLEY — Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Academy was playing against the clock just as much as it was battling Tucson Desert Christian in its 28-27 second-round win Saturday in the Division IV state tournament at Bradshaw Mountain High.
Down one in the fourth quarter, No. 10 Arizona Lutheran (19-10) watched a total of 3:35 tick off the clock without a point being scored.
That span began just after Arizona Lutheran’s Tatum Biciolis broke a streak of 16 missed ALA shots with a baseline jumper to cut No. 7 Desert Christian’s lead to 27-26 with 4:57 left.
After an encouraging 22-point first half, Arizona Lutheran had only scored two points in the third quarter as Desert Christian came back from being down eight to tie the game at 24-24. ALA would score only four in the fourth.
“Desert Christian is a good team,” Arizona Lutheran coach Jeremy Strassburg said. “They do some things defensively that just get you going where you don’t want to be, and they make you turn the ball over.”
As Desert Christian went into another one of its holding patterns with under 1:30 left, Arizona Lutheran guard Emily Neeb took a chance. She lunged at the ball near the right sideline by halfcourt and poked it loose.
Falling to the ground, Neeb tossed the ball upcourt to guard Janie Unkefer, who dished to Jordan McCoy for a reverse layup. Arizona Lutheran led 28-27 with 1:22 remaining.
Suddenly down, Desert Christian (25-7) couldn’t play the waiting game anymore. It took shots early into its offense, but couldn’t hit. With only two team fouls, Desert Christian had to foul repeatedly on the other end to try to get Arizona Lutheran to the line for a one-and-one.
That didn’t happen until 5.9 seconds were left in the game: two missed Desert Christian shots, five fouls and three jump balls later.
Arizona Lutheran post Sarah Unkefer missed the first shot of her one-and-one, and Desert Christian’s Nicole Ayers corralled the rebounds. Ayers flung an outlet pass upcourt, but Neeb broke it up like a free safety as time expired.
For its efforts, Arizona Lutheran will face defending champion Tempe Prep in the quarterfinals on Friday. ALA beat Tempe Prep by two at the end of the season.
Desert Christian is a good team. They do some things defensively that just get you going where you don’t want to be.”