By Greg Gulas
Springfield playmaker Callie Ford said her shot was off all game on Thursday, adding that it sometimes takes a while for her to find her shooting groove.
The South Range girls basketball team wishes she didn’t find it with time winding down.
Ford’s bucket from beyond the arc with less than a second remaining helped lift the Tigers to a 47-44 victory over the Raiders.
The game was similar to their first game which was won by the Raiders, 55-53 on Dec. 12.
“If Jillian [Tabaka] doesn’t steal their inbound pass with 10 seconds remaining, my bucket might never have happened,” Ford said. “Sometimes my shot gets off and I have to keep shooting in order to find my groove.
“It just happens and it’s really hard to explain,” Ford said. “We had no designed play as the team just worked the ball around and got it to me.
“After I shot it, I was just happy it found its way to the bottom of the net,” Ford said. “We needed this win because our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the league and this keeps those hopes alive.”
The Raiders (13-2, 9-1 Inter Tri-County League Tier One), winners of their first 10 games, have dropped two of their last five contests and fell to 6-2 on the road.
“This was much like our first game, but tonight I felt that both teams left it open for the other to win,” Raiders coach Tony Matisi said. “They took advantage by making a great play on our out-of-bounds pass.
“We had to guard all five players and tried to keep the ball out of Ford’s hands, but she just found a way to get it done.
Springfield is 13-2, 8-1.
“This was a great game, played between two very good teams with plenty of hard work and emotion throughout the entire contest,” Matisi said.
The final eight minutes saw six lead changes and three ties, the last deadlock coming with 13 seconds remaining when a Baylee Felger bucket knotted the game at 44.
Tabaka’s steal set up the eventual game-winning heave by Ford as time ran out.
“That’s a play that you just don’t draw up,” Springfield head coach Jim Schuler said. “Jillian started this and it was completed by the rest of the squad.
“You talk about a team sport whereby everyone contributes, well that is exactly what you witnessed tonight.”
Ford and Felger had a game-high 14 points for the Tigers while Morgan Czopur canned a team-high 13 points for South Range.
The Tigers extended their win streak to nine games while remaining undefeated in eight home contests.
They overcame a 29-23 deficit after the Raiders’ Ashley Sharp made a basket and Czopur made two free throws to start the second half.