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Lady Honkers down Braves with frantic 4th
She hit a trio of 3-pointers during the game, but the most important three points Morgan Hughes scored for the Lady Honkers came on the continuation of a single play.
With Willows High and Hamilton deadlocked at 43-43, Hughes drew a foul with the Honkers already in the bonus and stepped to the free-throw line with just 28 seconds left to play. After hitting the front end, Hughes' second shot caromed off the rim to the left but she followed her miss and grabbed the rebound. Without any hesitation, she aggressively drove the baseline to put her rebound up and in over Hamilton's 6-foot-5 Audra Jones to give the Honkers the 46-43 lead.
Hughes was fouled once again and sank both freebies to ice Willows' 48-43 victory in Hamilton City on Friday.
"When I knew it was going to miss, I knew I had to get the rebound," said Hughes, who led Willows in scoring with 18 points. "I knew I needed to take it at her (Jones)."
The Lady Honkers' gameplan included a healthy dose of perimeter shooting, attempting to go up and over Jones' intimidating wing span. Five different Honkers scored from behind the arc, with Hughes finding net on three and Baneli Lomeli sinking a pair among her nine points. Alyssa Beatty, Kaylin Jones and Lexy Weber each added a trey.
Willows' Ally Brunner scored the first points of the game on a steal and lay-up in the first quarter, but that was it for the Lady Honkers' second-leading scorer, as much of her concentration was on keeping Jones out of the paint for Hamilton.
The matchup proved to be successful for the Honkers, as Jones was limited to eight first-half points, although she is also returning from an injury.
With both teams trading buckets in the first half, the halftime score stood at 20-18 for the Lady Braves. One reason the score remained as close was Hamilton's dismal shooting from the line, which would play a major factor in the contest.
Brunner picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, and with her on the bench, Jones began to work her magic from the post, scoring seven of her game-high 19 in the third quarter.
Heading into the final eight minutes the Braves led 31-26.
A Jones bucket made it an 8-point lead at 39-31, but the Honkers fired off the next seven behind a pair of hoops by Sam Brott and the last of Hughes' 3-pointers to make it 39-38 with 3:20 to go.
Willows lost Brunner to fouls, but outscored the Honkers 10-3 the rest of the way, with Hamilton behind held to just three free throws.
"We gave this one away, plain and simple," said Hamilton coach Mark Priano. "We held Brunner and fouled her out, but I told the girls you can't give away 13-14 free throws and expect to win."
Justine McCorkle added nine points for Hamilton (4-5, 1-1 Sacramento Valley League).
Willows (10-5, 3-0 SVL) hosts Gridley on Jan. 8.
The Lady Braves are playing in the weekend's tournament at Liberty Christian.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.