Trailing by six points with just 44 seconds remaining in regulation, everything fell into place Friday night for the Tehachapi Lady Warriors in an improbable 59-55 overtime win at home against Bakersfield Christian.
Tehachapi trailed by nine points with 1:30 remaining and it appeared their chances at taking sole possession of first place in the South Yosemite League would slip away despite controlling the scoreboard most of the evening until the late heroics came into play.
In front of a packed house and a playoff atmosphere, the Lady Warriors trailed by four points when Teagan Thurman was fouled with less than 10 seconds remaining from three-point range. After missing the first free throw, Thurman made the second and intentionally missed the third; Irey Sandholt rebounded the shot and laid it in with .6 seconds remaining while drawing a foul. Sandholt made the pressure-packed free-throw to send the game into overtime tied at 52.
“Irey was just in the right place at the right time,” said Tehachapi head coach Jimi Perkins. “She made a miracle three-point play. It couldn’t have happened to a more-deserving player."
Despite giving up the first points of overtime, Tehachapi rallied behind Sandholt, Emily Williams and Thurman who accounted for all the scoring in the extra period as Tehachapi pulled off the comeback.
“The final minutes of the game took years off my life,” Perkins said. “I always tell these kids that we will compete until the bitter end and that sentiment paid off. We played hard and a lot of things went our way. I’m happy to finally be on this end of an epic comeback.”
Tehachapi led 25-20 at halftime but struggled in the third quarter and trailed 39-36 at the start of the fourth. The Eagles would stretch their lead to nine points, but Tehachapi took advantage of clutch shots from Thurman and Williams to put the pressure on the Eagles, who failed to convert on key free-throw opportunities, opening the door for the Tehachapi comeback.
Thurman led Tehachapi with 23 points while going just 8-of-30 from the field. Williams took control for the Lady Warriors late, scoring 13 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime including a jumper as the shot clock expired to put Tehachapi up 58-55.
Tehachapi benefited from a distinct home-court advantage, playing in front of their largest and loudest crowd of the season.
“I am beyond happy about the playoff atmosphere that our crowd brought to the gym,” Perkins said. “We are so grateful for the support we are getting from our community and hopefully the excitement this game provided will keep our fans filling the gym.”
Tehachapi improved to 18-5 overall and 5-2 in the SYL and are in sole possession of first place with three games remaining. Tehachapi plays at Golden Valley and Ridgeview this week. They will close out their SYL season on Feb. 6 against West at THS.
The Warriors dropped a pair of league contests last week on the road, falling 69-52 at Independence on Wednesday and 63-53 at league-leading Bakersfield Christian on Friday night.
Riley Thompson led Tehachapi in the loss at Independence with 13 points while Chris Garcia added 10 for the Warriors.
Friday night Tehachapi led 22-10 at the end of the first quarter and 35-30 at halftime but struggled in the second half, being limited to just 18 points as the Eagles pulled away for the win. Bakersfield Christian played without leading scorer Kadar Waller, who had been ruled ineligible by the CIF Central Section following allegations of illegal recruiting of Waller by the Eagles following his three seasons at Liberty.
According to The Bakersfield Californian, depending on the outcome of an appeal, the Eagles could be forced to forfeit previous wins. BCHS defeated Tehachapi on Jan. 9 73-40 with Waller leading all scorers with 24 points.
Tehachapi falls to 10-10 overall and 2-3 in SYL play. The Warriors return home for their final regular-season home games of the season this week when they host Golden Valley on Wednesday and Ridgeview on Friday night, both games tip off at 6:30 p.m.
Junior varsity boys
Tehachapi split their SYL contests this week, losing 60-57 at Independence and beating BCHS 63-61.
Brandon Neaderboamer led the Braves with 20 points against Independence and added 18 in the win on Friday. Tehachapi was led by Nathanial Webb’s 22 points in the victory over BCHS.
The Braves are 10-5 overall and 5-2 in the SYL.