Sometimes, statistics can be deceptive.
In Saturday’s Class 4A-Division I girls basketball championship, Bishop Miege’s shooting percentages were in the mid- to upper 50s during the first half.
McPherson’s, on the other hand, lagged consistently in the 30s to the very end.
But Riley Hett’s three-pointer from the left baseline helped the Bullpups catch the Stags, forcing overtime.
In the extra period, the Bullpups (23-1) hit 11 of 15 free throws and held on for a 62-58 victory.
The victory avenged McPherson’s only loss this season and was coach Chris Strathman’s third as the Bullpups’ head coach.
About that 35-percent shooting.…
“We still found a way to win,” Strathman said. “Taylor Robertson doesn’t hit a three-pointer (in seven tries), and we still found a way to win.”
Hett said she had a shot at a tie ballgame as well as a shot at atonement.
“I knew this was my last chance, and I know I had had some turnovers in the first quarter earlier,” she said. “I just knew I had it if I shot it. That’s all I needed.”
Strathman said, “She had a great look, she was perfectly squared up. I think (Andrea) Sweat made a great pass to her (and) found her for a wide-open three.
“As soon as it left her hand, I felt good about it.”
The urgency of the moment was not lost on her teammates, either.
“Oh, my goodness, it was amazing,” senior Mandi Cooks said. “I was like, ‘It’s going up. It’s going up. I have to get the rebound. No, it’s a swish!’”
Senior Taylor Robertson was thrilled by Hett’s shot.
“It was the biggest shot all year,” she said. “It was just a great shot by her, and we needed it.”
The victory was extremely special to McPherson’s lone seniors, Robertson and Cooks. Robertson was held to seven first-half points – and uncharacteristically without a three-pointer – but she shined in the overtime, hitting seven of eight free throws and finishing with 21 points.
Cooks has been out for seven months recovering from a complete tear of her Achilles tendon, but she was determined to play in the state tournament.
“I’m about 70 percent right now and I have about six months until I’m completely healed,” she said. “It’s amazing, and a great feeling (to win state).”
Cooks said rigid confidence is a key to the Bullpups.
“Our confidence is unwavering,” she said. “We stick to it. We keep going. We never give up.”
Miege (22-3), which had won the last four 4A crowns, led 35-26 at the half, powered by 16 points from freshmen Payton Verhulst and Faith Hawthorne.
But its scoring seemed to tail off in the second half, and McPherson took advantage, capped by Hett’s tying basket.
Afterward, coach Terry English said it came down to maintaining composure.
“We had the lead and the ball, time was winding down, and we turned it over,” he said. “They hit a couple of big shots, and got back into the game. We just kind of made some bad decisions at the end, and that kind of hurt us.”
Miege hit just three of 10 free throws in the second half and overtime.
“Part of those were front ends of one-and-ones,” English said. “We didn’t shoot free throws well, but we were still there. We had the ball and the lead (then) took an ill-advised shot that we didn’t need.
Strathman credited the team’s determination.
“We just had to grind it out,” he said. “If you have to have stops on the other end, that’s the way you’ve got to do it. They played their hearts out.”
B.Miege — Hawthorne 16, P. Verhulst 15, J. Gonzalez 12, J. Gonzalez 9, A. Verhulst 6
McPherson — T. Robertson 21, M. Cooks 11, R. Hett 11, H. Hageman 5, A. Sweat 5, Ruddle 3, C. Cooks 1