Kenzie Coleman stepped to the free throw line with 6.1 seconds remaining in a tied game with rival Bureau Valley Monday night at Prouty Gym, admittedly nervous with the game in her hands.
The senior guard calmed her nerves, rolling in her first attempt and swishing the second as the Tigresses escaped with a 41-39 win over the Storm.
“I’ve been working on free throws, but I didn’t think any amount of free throws would help because I was so nervous,” Coleman said. “It felt good because I felt everyone was so supportive and they thought I could do it. So, I felt like that helped.”
PHS coach Tiffany Gonigam said Coleman was prepared for moments like those.
“If I give the kids a one-minute water break at practice, Kenzie takes 10 seconds and gets back to the court and shoots free throws until the break is done. Kenzie has prepared herself for that situation, I felt confident with her at the line because I know her work ethic.”
Coleman’s heroics capped a crazy finish that saw the Storm turn a 13-point deficit into a late one-point lead.
Savanna Birkey hit a 3-pointer to trigger a 14-0 Storm run, including two points on a technical foul on the PHS bench.
Sophomore Kyra Stoller was instrumental in the Storm comeback. She hit two technical shots before a basket and a free throw by senior Morgan Ringle to make it 38-34.
Stoller hit a 3-pointer, then added a pair of free throws with 21.6 left to play to give the Storm their first lead of the game at 39-38.
PHS junior Taylor Quiram hit 1 of 2 free throws with 12.7 left to tie the game at 39. BV’s Sam Bohm was fouled rebounding Quiram’s missed second free throw by PHS’ McKenzie Hecht, who fouled out.
Bohm missed both free throw attempts with the Storm retaining possession when the ball was knocked out of bounds. Coleman, however, picked off the inbounds pass and was fouled racing down court to set up her game-winning free throws.
Coleman said it would have been deflating to lose.
“I think it would have been, because we worked so hard trying to come back at the end. It would have sucked if we had lost at the end. I’m happy that we won,” she said.
“Bureau Valley’s always a tough team, because they’re so fast and good defensively. It was a really good feeling to win.”
BV first-year head coach Daniel Sinclair said games like this will only make his team better.
“As a coach, it’s a good experience for the girls, especially early on in the season to have those games come down to the wire,” he said. “Unfortunately tonight, we made some mental mistakes. But as I told the girls, you make them now so we don’t have to deal with them later. If we can improve on those mental mistakes, we’re going to be such a better team in the future.
“Though I wasn’t too happy with the result, I’m happy with the way the team played overall.”
Coleman finished with a team-high 15 points for PHS with Quiram adding 13 and Hecht nine.
Stoller led all scorers with 18 points while Birkey added eight for BV.
The Tigresses (5-4, 2-0) scored the first 10 points of the game, capped by Erika Sorenson’s hoop from the left baseline at the 3:30 mark.
Coleman’s floater at the buzzer made it 16-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Birkey hit a two and three, Stoller added her second trey of the second quarter and Lauren Wirth hit 1-2 free throws as the Storm (2-6, 0-2) closed within 22-19 late in the second quarter.
Another baseline pop by Sorenson gave PHS a 24-19 halftime lead.
Quiram’s 3-point buzzer-beater just inside halfcourt gave the Tigresses’ their biggest lead of the night at 36-23 at the end of the third.
“I’m so proud of our kids for the way they came out tonight. We were able to put ourselves in a good position to start the game and really played composed the whole night,” Gonigam said. “I thought we could have defended better at times, but the kids worked really hard, faced adversity and played with poise.”
• Notes: Princeton now has one more win than all of last year and twice as many conference victories. ... PHS won the F/S game 30-16, Isa Ibarra had 10 points and Olivia Gartin six for PHS.